Ukrainian crisis puts India in a dilemma. A week after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many countries have condemned and sanctioned Moscow, but the twisted reluctance of one of the world’s most populous nations has drawn attention.
This is not China, but India in South Asia. Why is India reluctant to condemn Russia? What is the relationship between it and Russia? India, as a US security partner, has been slow to express its position. Is it possible to impact US-India relations or even the US Indo-Pacific strategy?
Ukrainian crisis puts India in a dilemma
On Thursday (March 3), U.S. President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held a virtual summit of the Quad Security Dialogue (Quad). The statement issued by the White House said the four leaders “reaffirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region where the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations in the region are respected and nations free from military, economic and political coercion.”
The Ukrainian conflict and humanitarian crisis were also discussed in the talks, and the broad implications were assessed, and they “agreed to establish new mechanisms for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief that will enable the Quartet to address future humanitarian challenges in the Indo-Pacific”.
At the meeting, Modi stressed the need to return to the “dialogue and diplomacy” path. Of the Quad members, however, only India has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Blinken spared no effort to persuade India to vote unsuccessfully at the UN General Assembly
. On March 2, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning Russia and demanding its unconditional withdrawal. India once again joined the abstention camp of 35 countries including China and Iran.
“There is no excuse or room for ambiguity,” Biden said in a statement on the UN vote. “Russia is to blame.”
Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Donald Lu told a congressional hearing on March 2 He said that the United States had already been in contact with India the day after the Russian invasion. Modi and Russian and Ukrainian leaders spoke on the phone and called for a ceasefire.
“Under Secretary Blinken’s leadership, we have spared no effort in trying to persuade India to vote in the UN General Assembly to express support for Ukraine at this critical historical time.”
Donald Lew said that unfortunately, the US lobbying failed in the end, and India insisted not to choose sides between Russia and Ukraine, but to seek a diplomatic solution.
Encircled by China and Pakistan, India needs to maintain relations with Russia.
Richard Rossow, senior adviser to the US-India Policy Research Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a US think tank, was on Wednesday at a seminar on “Ukraine Crisis and Asia: Implications and Responses” “India wants to maintain a decent relationship with Russia, for reasons of self-interest, in order to protect its national security in the face of its two great adversaries, China and Pakistan.”
Russia is India’s traditional ally, providing it with about six completed defense equipment. In the early days of the Cold War, India threw itself into the arms of the Soviet Union. During the Sino-Indian border conflict in 1962, the Soviet Union declared neutrality and avoided defending China.
China’s coercive and bullying behaviors in recent years have brought severe security challenges to India. In 2020, clashes in the Galwan Valley killed at least 20 Indian soldiers.
Another nuclear-armed neighbor, Pakistan, and China are getting closer, and India is also deeply disturbed. India fears the Taliban could make Afghanistan a safe haven for terrorists after the U.S. withdrew its troops from Afghanistan.
Sameer Lalwani, a senior fellow at the South Asia Program at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington, told VOA in an email that the U.S. can sell weapons to India, but India is not willing to decouple from Russia.
“The bond between Russia and India is not only about weapons dependence. India also has a theory that maintaining a strong relationship with Russia, another major power, is most conducive to the advancement of the strategic interests of the two countries. Russia can support India, provide defense technology, the United Nations Security Council vetoes, influence in Central Asia, and ways to influence, balance China.”
Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, a U.S. think-tank, added that although India is the world’s largest democracy, India There has long been a series of grievances against the United States.
“First, why did the US support Pakistan during the Cold War? Second, India wants a multi-polar world and be a pole in it. Despite China’s many problems, I think Indians feel that the US holds hegemony in the international system It’s not a good thing either. Also, in 1998, India conducted a nuclear test, which was condemned and sanctioned by the United States.”
Under the big stick of sanctions, India’s arms purchases from Russia are difficult to achieve
The strong sanctions from the West have caused Russia’s financial market to be basically closed for several consecutive days. The Biden administration announced on the 2nd that it would sanction 22 entities that manufacture equipment for the Russian military.
Lawani believes that international sanctions will have an indirect impact on India’s arms supply. “India is looking to buy Russian Kamov Ka-226 helicopters, which require French engines. Russian Krivak III frigates need Ukrainian gas turbines. Neither are available now. Russia may It is also difficult to obtain the semiconductors needed for advanced fighter jets, missiles and submarines, which are all what India wants to buy.”
US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lew said that as sanctions continue to expand, there will be fewer and fewer Russian arms buyers in the future. This also worries India.
“I think it will be difficult for anyone to buy major weapons systems from Moscow for some time to come, given the extensive financial sanctions imposed by the U.S. government with the support of Congress. Without the banking system, it will be difficult for other countries to pay for the purchase of defense systems. millions of dollars, rubles, yen or euros. I think a lot of countries that have preserved the legacy of Russia (arms sales) will be worried that not only high-end weapons like the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, but also ammunition , spare parts and basic supplies for the project. I guess India is also worried.” The
Indian government signed a contract with Russia in 2018 to purchase 5 sets of S-400 air defense missile systems. Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) signed by the Trump administration in 2017, the United States can seek sanctions against third countries that engage in military-technical cooperation with Russia, Iran and North Korea.
But as an important player in containing China in the Indo-Pacific region, India has so far not been sanctioned by the United States.
“India is a very important security partner of the United States, and we want to advance our partnership with India. Russia faces serious criticism, and I hope India will find it is time to stay away from Russia,” said US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lew, who was confident that the US government would fully Follow and enforce CAATSA, but cannot make decisions on behalf of the President.
West VS Russia, India at a crossroads
The “Indo-Pacific Strategy” released by the White House last month clearly supports India’s continuous rise and its regional leadership, while emphasizing the maintenance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
From 2008 to 2020, India-US defense trade has grown from near zero to over $20 billion.
“Thirty years ago, it was unimaginable for the United States to sell anything related to defense to India. Today, the amount and sophistication of the (equipment) we are transferring to India is staggering.” Donald Lu Say.
Aparna Pande, director of the “Future India and South Asia Initiative” at the Hudson Institute, told VOA that over the past decade, India has continued to expand its sources of weapons and maintain strong trade with the United States. Russia does not occupy the Dominance.
“India is an independent country and has long sought to ensure that it does not depend on any one country for arms or crude oil supplies. The US, Israel and France have all been competing with Russia over the past decade, despite Russia being one of India’s largest suppliers of defence equipment. The bilateral trade volume between the United States and India has reached 146 billion US dollars. The India-Russia trade volume is only 11 billion US dollars, which is insignificant when compared with the trade volume between India and the United States, the European Union, Japan or the United Arab Emirates.”
In addition, China and Russia’s partners may also would push India to distance itself from Russia. Pand pointed out that this round of sanctions has pushed Russia even more toward China, and if border conflicts break out again, India should no longer count on Russia to help fight China.
Will India’s ambiguous attitude in the Russian-Ukrainian war be repeated in the Taiwan Strait crisis? Both Aparna Pande and Sameer Lalwani believe that India’s role is unclear once China attacks Taiwan by force, and India has not indicated that it will release corresponding sanctions or military action.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lew emphasized at the hearing that India and Taiwan have broad prospects for economic and technological cooperation, “India is exploring close relations with Taiwan. Indian officials have released a signal to become a semiconductor power. We have seen the Indian Navy in the past. Sailing into the Taiwan Strait is of great symbolic importance, especially in this historical period when we are working to ensure Taiwan’s security.”