By Patial RC
India has historically avoided taking sides on many foreign military interventions, often because of its own foreign-policy,interests and security vulnerabilities. It has exercised its choices through its commitment to nonalignment, which from the Indian perspective has meant the ability to pursue an independent foreign policy and to take decisions according to its own interests.
India’s stand on the Russian invasion of Ukraine is best illustrated by its statements at the UNSC. While it has refrained from any direct criticism of Russia and abstained from voting in any resolutions against it.India focuses on the need to abide by the UN Charter, respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of states and to resolve issues through diplomatic dialogues and negotiations.“If India has chosen a side, it is the side of peace and it is for an immediate end to violence.”
The war in Ukraine has made it clear that though India’s political democratic system is similar to the West, strategic interests and geopolitical compulsions greatly differ. US has so far attempted to pressurise India to take side of the US. India has not “aligned” with Russia, and has kept a relatively balanced position during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the US does not buy it.India’s remaining neutral makes no sense to the US.However other than the US most have appreciated India’s neutral stance based on its national interests.
“Our considered call for immediate cessation of violence and an end to all hostilities is an urgent imperative,” India’s UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti said, reiterating that there is no other option but to return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue, as the only way ahead.He underlined that Modi has advocated strongly for the immediate cessation of violence and end to all hostilities in his recent conversations with the Russian and Ukrainian leadership.
India’s neutral stance has historical background
India’s engagement with the world reflects similar positions and statements on the erstwhile Soviet Union’s armed interventions in Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968), Afghanistan (1979) are largely similar to its current, albeit evolving, stand on Russia’s action. On the other hand, India’s responses to the Israeli-British-French invasion of Egypt (1956), the long years of the US’s armed involvement in Vietnam and its Iraq war (2003).
In July 1956 Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal. Till then, the canal was controlled by an Anglo-French company. After a period of failed talks Britain, France, along with Israel, decided to launch a war against Egypt in October. India’s Nehru condemned the “dastardly action” and ask the US to intervene for the cause of peace and insisted that Britain, France and Israel withdraw their forces. Nehru knew that the Egyptian military resistance was dwindling and that “Nasser proposed to lay down his life fighting.” The US sponsored UN Peace resolution, passed on November 2, 1956 pushed fighting forces behind armistice lines(Eisenhower-Nehru formula).
The Hungarian crisis came to a boil at the same time as Egypt was being invaded. Ultimately, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary and the anti-Soviet forces were brutally suppressed. Unlike his position on Egypt, Nehru initially did not openly speak against the Soviets. The Indian representative abstained in a UNGA motion which was critical of Soviets. Public opinion in India was unhappy with Soviet action and criticised Nehru.
The Soviet Union in August 1968, invaded Czechoslovakia. The Soviet-led action was criticised in India. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was sympathetic to the plight of Czechs but refused to be swayed by emotion. India abstained from voting on a resolution at the UNSC seeking to condemn the Soviet Union.
In 1979, Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Gandhi returned to power a few days after that. India supported the Soviets at the UNGA. It blamed outside powers for interfering in Afghan affairs, accepted that Soviet forces had entered at Afghan request and India had been assured that they would leave whenever Afghans wanted them to.
“India is culturally a peace-loving country…We have always worked closely with our neighbours in a cooperative and friendly manner. Always wished for their development and welfare. We never provoke anyone, but we also do not compromise with the integrity and sovereignty of our country. Whenever the time has come, we have demonstrated our power, proving our capabilities in protecting the integrity and sovereignty of the country.”Modi during the 2020 Galwan stand off with China.
Foreign ministers including of China and advisors of important stake holders are all rushing to India for better ties and gauze the Indian stand on the Ukraine war. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was looking to boost trade ties and “Sell more oil to India”as it faces widespread energy import boycotts in Europe and the US. Western nations led by the US, which have imposed vast sanctions on Russia after its invasion on Ukraine, are trying to penalize the Russian economy. Russia, for its part, is looking to counter sanctions through the allegiances it has built with its Asian neighbours and BRICS especially through the sale of oil and gas to China and India. However,Europe can not do without Russian oil and gas.China and India continue to maintain a neutral stance by abstaining from the UN General Assembly resolution but deploring the Russian invasion. However, both are ready to work with all parties to bring an early end to the war.
India’s neutral stand
Prime Minister Narendra Modi explained India’s neutral stand in the conflict that “India has connections with both Russia and Ukraine countries involved in the war which is the reason why the country has taken a neutral stand in the conflict.India has a connection with both the countries- economically, security-wise, education-wise and politically as well. India’s several needs are connected to these countries.” He further asserted that since India has connections with both countries, it is constantly appealing for peace and constant dialogue.”The ongoing war is affecting every country across the world. India is on side of peace and hopes that all problems are resolved with deliberations.”
US led West need to understand that India’s neutral stance has historical background and is nothing new and like in the past India stands for peace and that ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ or concept of the ‘World as one family’ gives India an identity that is different from other countries.
“Every child in India knows that Russia is our best friend”
In India’s balancing act, echoes from the past by Vivek Katju