At a meeting of the UN Security Council, Indian representatives called for a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine, but did not criticize Russia. experts”BBCexplained why New Delhi is trying to engage in a diplomatic balancing act: India does not want relations to deteriorate either with Western countries or with the Russian Federation.
Despite demands from Kyiv and Moscow to take a clear position on the issue, India abstained from voting, but reiterated the need to respect “the Charter of the United Nations, international law, as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States”.
Former Indian diplomat JN Misra explained that New Delhi “now has two options: a bad one and an even worse one”.
“You can’t lean in two directions at once. India did not name the country it condemns, which shows that New Delhi will not go against Moscow. India must be careful in choosing a side, which it is doing,” he said.
The main reason why India does not want to openly criticize Russia is economic ties. Moscow is still New Delhi’s biggest arms supplier – half of all weapons come from Russia. In particular, the Russian Federation provides the most important element to protect the country in the event of aggression from China and Pakistan – the S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems.
At the same time, experts note the long history of diplomatic cooperation between India and Russia on a number of issues. For example, the Russian Federation has previously vetoed UN Security Council resolutions on the disputed region of Kashmir.
According to Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilsen think tank, New Delhi does not like what is happening in Ukraine, but the country will remain neutral on this issue, which is in line with its past strategy.
India occupies a unique position among the countries of the world – it manages to maintain good relations with Moscow and Washington. Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the situation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, while Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar held talks with officials in Washington.
“India does not openly criticize Russia, but that does not mean that India has decided to turn a blind eye to the suffering of Ukrainians. She took a measured approach. The New Delhi delegation to the UN Security Council resolutely affirmed the need to respect the territorial integrity of states, that is, it clearly underlined the fate of Ukraine,” added Kugelman.
It is likely that the United States could soon force India to choose a side. The question of American sanctions against New Delhi for the purchase of the S-400 remains open. However, if India officially opposes Russia, Moscow could increase its support for Pakistan, the country’s main adversary.
Kugelman said such a scenario would only materialize if the Ukrainian conflict drags on.
“Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. But if that happens, then serious tests await India’s foreign policy,” the expert summed up.
To read on the subject: Westerners allowed to fight for Ukraine.