AAs they say, it’s over except the screams. Not that the screams are over, not by a long chalk. This continues as US senators even recently called for sanctions against India for its stance on Russia.
Over the past few months, and especially the past week, Delhi has seen a barrage of threats and veiled pleas as the leaders of all major European countries and the United States rushed to India for its support. in the war against Ukraine. Although these have eased somewhat as Delhi has remained firm in its public stance, now is a good time to set the record straight on India’s stance on Ukraine, not in terms of justification but clarity on where we are and where we are likely to go. the next months. It also means assessing some of the valuable theories and guesses prevalent among “experts”, including requests such as Indian mediation, or warnings that India’s “weak” stance would lead China to intervene.
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Inside India’s “Position”
First, India’s position is far from static. It evolved as the conflict continued, with India’s permanent representative continuing to abstain from resolutions condemning Russia, but also refusing to support an opportunistic Russian resolution.
At the start of the conflict, Delhi clearly needed Russian and Ukrainian help to get its 22,000 citizens out, including those from 18 other countries, and so took a stance emphasizing “dialogue and diplomacy”. in February, alongside the Prime Minister’s talks with both sides. This position continued until mid-March when the last aircraft returned. On March 24, India abstained on a Russian resolution, which ironically called for “civil protection” in Ukraine and “unhindered access for humanitarian aid”, which also stressed that the issue should not be “politicized”.
On April 7, India again abstained in a vote to remove Russia from the Human Rights Council, but this time choosing to “condemn” the Bucha killings and calling for an independent investigation. India’s vote therefore followed an even-handed approach even as it centralized “respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states” and the “peaceful settlement of international disputes”. The latter led many to assume that the position of India and China was the same. While Beijing’s explanation of vote ticked both of those boxes, the rest of the statement noted “history” and “letting go of the Cold War mentality, letting go of the logic of ensuring one’s own security to the detriment of the security of others, and the abandonment of the approach of seeking regional security by expanding military blocs”.
Simply put, there is nothing in common between the two positions. Going forward, India’s position should not change in terms of abstention. Few remember that India also abstained on a US-sponsored resolution 688, which was the prelude to the invasion of Iraq, at a time when India was convinced that the Iraq had no “weapons of mass destruction”. There were also similar resolutions on Bosnia and Libya, which also presaged interventions, which led to long civil wars in those countries.
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This mediation thing
Having abstained, some are calling for India to mediate, apparently because of its proximity to Russia. Certain basic conditions must be met before even considering mediation. As a United Nations policy document notes, “mediation is a process by which a third party helps two or more parties, with their consent, to prevent, manage or resolve a conflict by helping them to develop mutually acceptable agreements” . In short, the consent of everyone involved is vital – not just one.
Assuming Russia is ready for mediation – probably because its most immediate needs for the “liberation” of Donbas have been met (which its top military officials alluded to earlier); assuming that Ukraine is also ready to offer “neutrality” with strong guarantees (meaning a virtual security umbrella from some NATO countries); both provide opportunities for mediation.
But there is a third, which includes both Europe and the United States. For now, there is no indication that either is prepared to encourage such an outcome. Recently, the President of the European Union, Von der Leyen, declared that the sanctions were designed for the long term to serve as a “lever” for a lasting peace. More recently, US President Joe Biden asked Congress for $33 billion in funding for Ukraine, including $20 billion for weapons. Such a decision does not seem to show any will to stop the war. What this shows is that it’s the US defense industry that’s getting the bulk of the money. Yes, mediation is urgent, especially for all those like India who are facing the economic shock. But no mediator worth his salt will step in if there is a feeling that one side wants to drive Russia into the sunset.
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China makes a Ukraine?
And finally, the question of China.
Various scholars have warned that India, following its current stance, risks China making a similar invasion modeled on Ukraine, especially in contested areas.
First, it must be clear that any large-scale invasion along the lines of Russian interference would be met by India not only with equal force, but would also open up the threat of the use of nuclear weapons. India has a no-first-use posture, which is not merely declarative, but then trickles down to the number and types of weapons it chooses to keep in its arsenal. But one can assume that any serious threat to its territorial integrity, which is after all the fundamental requirement of national security, would face possible nuclear use, if conventional force fails.
What is certainly far more dangerous, and more likely, is the steady reduction of slices of territory that may not be considered serious enough to warrant the use of nuclear weapons. For this reason, and many others, it might be good for India to put in place an official and public policy that defines “red lines” which, if crossed, could result in drastic, nuclear action. Or other. Although it is assumed that China would not be foolish enough to risk such an escalation, it is good to ensure that any possible adventurism, even on the part of regional commanders, is effectively nipped in the bud before even starting. ‘think it.
So what are the omens for the future? India is likely to stay the course for all the reasons that have been publicly discussed, including arms addiction, the need to support Moscow as a “third pole” of reasonable strength, and the fact that Russia is involved in our most sensitive areas, including nuclear energy. What is no longer relevant is any kind of historical hangover of Russian friendship. Today’s diplomacy needs an agility that cannot rest on the laurels or sentiments of the past. Think of Indian diplomacy as something like Indian conduct. Any way, any time, as long as it gets you there, and fast.
Tara Kartha is an Emeritus Fellow of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi. She tweets @kartha_tara. Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)