Russia-Ukraine-US – A Crossroads for India
From Nirmalya Chatterjee, Henderson, NV
India has been very close to and dependent on Russia since its independence in 1947. Much of India’s arms supply comes from Russia. On the diplomatic front, Russia has stood beside India on some of its critical challenges, most notably on Kashmir. There is a significant amount of trade between the two countries including in the oil and gas sector.
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, India has been playing the delicate act of being ‘neutral’. But, with the war in Ukraine, the country is now at a strategic crossroads.
Through the successive administrations of the US and India, their relationship has improved greatly since the seventies when President Nixon sent a naval fleet to the Bay of Bengal to warn Mrs. Gandhi against liberating Bangladesh from Pakistan. Those were truly dark days. Russia, around the same time, was vetoing UN resolutions condemning India.
But things have changed so much since then. Putin has aligned very closely with China, India’s archrival. And, the United States has gradually distanced itself from its old friend Pakistan as Pakistan has become a safe harbor for terrorism.
There are intense diplomatic efforts going on right now by both Russia and the United States to get India to take a side. Senior diplomats from the two countries are said to be almost bumping into each other at the Delhi airport on their way to meet their Indian counterparts. Russian bankers returned from there trying to arrange for alternative ways to facilitate commercial transactions. Veteran US diplomat and Under Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, declared upon her return from India trip – “…Russians are going to be sorely disappointed by their relationship with India”. A pretty bold prediction!
Americans believe Putin’s coziness with Xi Jinping worries India. Can India count on Russia in case of a conflict with China? Secondly, with the performance of Russian weapons in Ukraine, Indians don’t feel very secure with all the Russian weapons they have. Last but not the least – India is a democracy. PM Narendra Modi, at the end of the day, would most likely not want to be grouped with authoritarians like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.
India certainly has big challenges to make a shift. It is very dependent on the Russian oil. Right now, because of the sanctions, India is buying that oil at a hefty discount. America has not provided much weaponry to India yet. It is not easy for India to break away from the legacy of Soviet and Russian arsenal if it is to have a reliable security. India is between a rock and a hard place now. As the Ukraine-Russia situation unfolds, Modi, Jaishankar and company will be on the tight rope for some time to come.