Conflicts & War

India sticks to neutral stance on Ukraine amid China rivalry

By Indira Guerrero

New Delhi, Mar 3 (EFE).- India has abstained from voting on the United Nations resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which would increase pressure from its western allies and result in another geopolitical challenge for a country which has close military ties with Russia, an ally key to containing traditional rival China.

New Delhi’s stand over the Ukraine war – in which it did not refer to the Russian invasion – and its abstention from the UN Security Council and General Assembly votes, has been widely seen as veiled support to the Kremlin.

With hostile neighbors such as Pakistan and China and several ongoing border conflicts, India has focused on its own agenda in recent months and ties with Russia – which supplies around 60-70 percent of its arms imports – are an important part of the country’s defense structure.

This signifies that practically “India needs Russia, even to stand up to China, (…) so antagonizing Russia can become very costly” due to ongoing border tensions with Beijing, Harsh V Pant – the head of the Strategic Studies Program at the think-tank Observer Research Foundation – told EFE.

“India has to rely on itself to stand up to China and Russia will send supplies,” he added.

Moscow has not only been the largest weapons supplier for India but also a mediating channel with China, Pakistan and even Afghanistan, where New Delhi has lost major influence after the withdrawal of international troops and the fall of the United States-backed government.

“India is perhaps the only country in a unique position that it needs both the Russians and its western friends to stand up against China,” Pant highlighted.

Although New Delhi has tried to diversify its defense alliances in recent years, its dependence on Russia is enormous despite having got rid of 85 percent of its Cold-War era acquisitions with the help of tie-ups with Israel, France and the US.

The immediate priority for the Indian government is to evacuate thousands of its citizens – most of them students – who have been trapped in Ukraine, with limited possibilities of movement, even as their families demand urgent assistance.

“Evacuation is not possible unless India has the ears of both Russians and the Ukrainians,” the ORF analyst warned.

In the last two years, tensions between India and China have threatened to go out of hand, with the People’s Liberation Army deploying a large amount of troops and equipment on the de-facto border between the two sides, violent clashes and failed attempts at de-escalation.

The discomfort over the possibility that Russia’s isolation could further weaken the possibility of trilateral dialog with Beijing is being seen as the biggest reason why New Delhi decided to abstain from the UNGA vote along with China, South Africa and 32 other countries.

On the other hand, Pant said that India has also been trying to prevent Russia and China from closing ranks and has urged its western allies to break this alliance.

Several South Asian countries have simply appealed for dialog and prioritized the evacuation of their citizens instead of condemning Russia’s recent actions, demonstrating Kremlin’s strong ties in the region.

In such a scenario, the stance taken by India – a major Asian power which also occupies a post in the UNSC – “will be very useful for Russia,” Gulshan Sachdeva, the head of the Center for European Studies at the Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University, told EFE.

In this backdrop, on Thursday India was set to participate in a virtual summit with the United States, Australia and Japan, other constituents of the QUAD alliance – a security dialog over which both China and Russia have expressed reservations – although its agenda had no mention of the Ukraine situation. EFE


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