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Editorial of the Day: Positing India’s Stand on the Ukraine War (The Hindu)

India was one among the 32 countries that abstained from voting on a resolution of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) asking for an end to the war.

  • India has refused to condemn Russia for the invasion; it has refused to heed West’s sanctions; has increased buying Russian fuel at a discounted price and has consistently abstained from UN votes on the war.
  • India’s actions have attracted sharp response from western commentators, with some even going to the extent of saying India was “financing” Putin’s war by buying Russian oil.
  • Others have been wondering why the world’s largest democracy did not condemn Russia. India’s position could be understood by looking at how India sees the war.

The Ukraine War from India’s Perspective

  • European Problem: Western media has dubbed the war as a global crusade for democracy, and anything less than a complete Russian defeat would mean “the end of the international order”.
    • They have asked all democratic and law-adhering states to take a position against Russia and join the western coalition to “save global democracy”.
    • Response: Despite support on UNGA resolution, the U.S. has not managed to mobilise democracies outside its traditional western alliance.
    • Big democracies such as India, South Africa, Brazil and some western alliance countries such as Israel and Turkey are reluctant to join the Western crusade.
    • Majority of these countries see the war as a European problem between two former Soviet countries and less about global democracy.
  • Morality Vs National Interests: From moral perspective, there is no doubt that Russia has violated the sovereignty of Ukraine.
    • Being a clear violation of international law, India has repeatedly stated in the UN that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected.
    • For US and its allies, their moral position coincides with their foreign policy objectives, which is to weaken Russia and establish their superiority. Their moral position on Ukraine serves their strategic purpose.
    • But when it comes to morality vs. national interests, the West has always embraced national interests, as seen in invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.
    • Their allies have repeatedly invaded foreign territory, built illegal infrastructure and also legalized them, all under the watch of United Nations. Morality was blatantly ignored.
    • So it is not surprising that emerging countries such as India have put their national interest at the core of their policy making.

What are India’s National Interests in the Current Situation?

  • Maintaining historical ties with Russia: India wants its ties with Russia to remain strong. It needs to look beyond moral liability.
  • Energy Security: Discounted fuel from Russia has helped India reduce it energy bill significantly, which otherwise would have been a major financial burden.
  • Defence: Russia has contributed over 46% of India’s defence needs in the last five years. There is demand for diversifying its source of defence imports, but this would take time.
  • Strategic leverage: When Russian ties with China are deepening, India should retain its leverage over Russia through existing ties rather than losing it by joining Western Alliance.
  • Central Asian interests: To manage its continental interests and tackle its continental security concerns, India needs to work with powers in the Eurasian landmass, where Russia is a key player and the US is practically absent.

 Way Forward

  • India’s interests do not lie in the weakening of Russia nor the destruction and splintering of Ukraine. It wants an immediate end to the war.
  • This will ensure that security equilibrium between great powers will be maintained so that the global economy could be stabilised and the world could focus on more pressing issues, including climate change and UN reforms.
  • India must uphold its pragmatic neutrality, rooted in realism, and continue to push for a practical solution to end the Ukraine crisis.

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What is the full form of UNGA?

United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

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