India has become closer to the US and the West in the recent past but it also enjoys traditionally a good relation with Russia
|The Author is Ex Corps Commander 11 Corps, Ex Chief of Staff Eastern Command, Ex Commandant Army War College and Ex IG (Ops) NSG.|
While the UNSC was discussing the emerging crisis in Ukraine, Russian President Putin was addressing the nation, announcing a “Special military operation” against Ukraine. Earlier he had formally recognised the two break away regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine under Russian Supported Militia, as independent sovereign states. The Russian Duma had formally approved these regions as Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, EU and NATO have come out with even more severe sanctions against Russia. The Ukrainian President Zelensky who is considered by many as a dictator himself has declared martial law throughout the country and has gone on to state that Ukraine will “win the war”. The DPR and LPR pro Russian separatists have requested the assistance of Russia making the situation even more precarious. If media reports are to be believed, Russia has mounted attack on Ukraine by land, air and sea. As per some, fierce fighting is going on in six to seven locations. Many fear an air assault on the capital city Kyiv by the Russian Airborne Forces. This is probably the largest attack on the European Soil after World War 2 and has the potential to become the forerunner to a third world war?
US President Biden has denounced the attack and pledged the world will, “hold Russia accountable for this war on Ukraine.” Similarly, the French President Macron, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the British Premier Boris Johnson have condemned this Russian act. The UN Chief also has urged Putin to stop troops from attacking Ukraine. The Chinese remain silent for obvious reasons as Russia and China currently enjoy good working relations.
Putin has termed the purpose of the current attack as demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine as the overt purpose of his action but the real reasons are obvious to the keen eye
The Russian invasion of Ukraine was in the offing for quite some time although Ukrainewas already in turmoil with conflict between Russian backed Eastern Ukraine separatists, virtual takeover of Crimea by Russia and severe Cyber Attacks and Information War since 2014. Putin has his own justification to go to war as Russia believes that West (read NATO) has no right to expand east wards as it will directly threaten the Russian National Security. He also questions the need for NATO to exist post the fall of Soviet Union in 1991. Putin wants NATO to deny Ukraine from joining it and pull back all military forces in Eastern Europe and rewriting boundaries agreed between NATO and Russia in 1997.
Should the situation escalate into a major war how does India pitch itself? Should it remain neutral or back the West at the cost of annoying the Russians?
Ukraine is also important for Russia from the point of being rich in minerals and shale gas. Besides, being the granary of the region, it can meet the food needs of over 600 million people of the world. It is 9th in the world in defence industry, 8th in installed nuclear power capacity and above all 4th largest gas pipeline system which is absolutely critical for Russia. Putin considers Ukraine as part of Russia and would like to bring it back in its fold to regain some lost glory of the USSR era. Putin has termed the purpose of the current attack as demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine as the overt purpose of his action but the real reasons are obvious to the keen eye. Besides Russia, EU and China too have high stakes in the region from geo-economic perspective.
Where does this leave India? Firstly, India has a serious short term problem to deal with. There are around 20,000 students struck in India. Air India flights have been forced to return as per some reports due to the ongoing war in the region. While additional foreign office staff is being deployed in Ukrainian embassy and countries around it to extricate the Indian population struck in the country, the larger issues for India are more worrisome. Secondly, India will have to deal with energy crisis with the World Oil prices crossing the $100 mark and as per some assessments this is likely to remain over the 100 mark for a fairly long time. However, once the situation is clear and under control, it may stabilise to around the $90 mark. This may lead to higher levels of inflation thus impacting our economy. However, China may defy the sanctions laid by the US and the West leading to more exports falling in the lap of India. Therefore, it may ultimately prove beneficial to India. Finally, which side should India support? India has become closer to the US and the West in the recent past but it also enjoys traditionally a good relation with Russia. Should the situation escalate into a major war how does India pitch itself? Should it remain neutral or back the West at the cost of annoying the Russians?
The best bet in the current situation would be to act as the balancer and work to restore peace within the UN framework
The best bet in the current situation would be to act as the balancer and work to restore peace within the UN framework however weak the UN many be perceived by the international community. At the same time we should remain focussed on our concerns which are to build an alliance with West Asian and ME countries (mini QUAD is already in place with UAE, Saudi, Israel and India) and work towards building a working relations with the Central Asian Republic (CAR) countries to secure our security and economic interests. Simultaneously work with Asia – Pacific countries like the US, Japan, ASEAN and Australia to counter the growing Chinese influence in the IOR. We must not forget that with Taiwan on the East and Ukraine in the West we are now the centre of gravity upon which everyone has to now rely upon to secure their national interest. So the situation may not be that bad after all for India. Let us wait and watchand remain a balancer.