India’s Role in Russia-Ukraine War
09, Nov 2022
Prelims level : International Relations Mains level : GS-II International Relations | Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India
Why in News?
- As external affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar arrives in Russia this week for a bilateral visit, there is growing international interest in the potential Indian diplomatic contribution to ending the tragic war in Ukraine which is now in the ninth month and has shaken the world to its core.
The story of Ukraine’s war and India’s Strategy so far:
- India’s balanced approach: India has reasons to be satisfied that there is a better appreciation of its position on Ukraine in the Western public discourse. In the last few months, the Western media and think tanks had been relentless in their criticism of the Indian approach to the crisis as lacking moral and strategic clarity in the face of Russia’s unprovoked aggression.
- India didn’t criticize Russian nor endorse Russian aggression: Through the last nine months, Delhi was reluctant to explicitly criticize Russian aggression against Ukraine and insisted on a dialogue between the warring parties. At the same time, India refused to endorse Russian aggression, underlined the importance of respecting the United Nations Charter, emphasized the inviolability of territorial sovereignty, warned against the use of nuclear weapons, and sought to draw at tension to the economic impact of the war on the “Global South”.
- America showed sensitivity to India’s position: In the Biden administration there was a measure of understanding of where Delhi was coming from and India’s long-standing equities in the relationship with Russia and the constraints it imposed on India. Official Washington never let the heat of the Ukraine crisis in Europe undermine the longer-term American imperative of engaging India to stabilize the Indo-Pacific. The same can’t be said about Europe, but then the continent was right in the middle of the gravest conflict since the Second World War. The European trauma from a shattered peace is real.
- India’s role in grain shipment and nuclear power station: Recent reports in the US media recount the Indian diplomatic contribution at a few critical moments in the nine-month-long war-in helping overcome issues over the grain shipment deal from Ukraine and in reducing the growing risks of the war targeting the nuclear power station at Zaporizhzhia in eastern Ukraine.
Can India take on a larger diplomatic role?
- India’s role is limited: Good relations with Moscow and Washington do put South Block in an interesting position. But India is not the only channel of communication between the US and Russia. Nor are Washington and Moscow totally reliant on third parties.
Efforts to end war by west and Russia
- Communications between the defence ministers: The defence ministers of the two countries have frequently talked to each other reminding each other of their redlines in the war. Meanwhile, the onset of winter will increasingly limit the possibilities for military operations in Ukraine and would give a chance to both sides to pause, regroup and rethink their strategy and tactics.
- Putin’s strategy: Putin’s current focus on destroying the Ukrainian cities and the occasional threat to use nuclear weapons underline Russia’s weakness in the Ukraine war rather than strength. From a military perspective, there is no easy way for Russia to secure a “victory” in this war.
- Limitations of Putin: Putin might have no option but to consider an honorable draw that will save his political face and secure some territorial gains in Ukraine. Can the same be said about the other Vladimir? (The Russians and Ukrainians both claim Vladimir or Volodymyr the Great of the 10th century as the founder of their nations).
- Ukraine’s strategy: Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has led the country’s fight against Russian aggression with impressive determination. Unlike the Russian troops, the Ukrainian forces are trying to save their nation against aggression and have inflicted significant military defeats on the Russians.
- Limitations of Ukraine: There is a question, can Zelenskyy succeed in liberating all territories occupied by Russia, including Crimea which Russia took by force in 2014? Zelenskyy might like to fight on until he realizes that goal, but there are second thoughts in the Western coalition that is backing him.
- Western effort of sanctions on Russia: The West had bet that the massive sanctions it imposed after Moscow launched its war against Ukraine would bring the Russian economy to its knees. But Russia is still standing and the costs of the sanctions are beginning to have major effects on Western societies.
- Rising energy cost and Ineffectiveness of sanctions: As the economic and energy costs of the war mount, there is growing political support in Europe for a quick resolution of the conflict. In the US, which has emerged as the main supporter of Ukraine, there are both Republicans and Democrats who are questioning the current American “blank cheque” for Ukraine. If the Republicans do well as they are expected to in this week’s midterm elections to the US Congress, the internal polarization could sharpen and cast a shadow over American foreign policy, including the Ukraine strategy.
- USA is repairing its strategy: Although these developments need not be fatal to US strategy, Washington is beginning to recalibrate. In important private advice to Kyiv last week, Washington called for greater flexibility in Zelenskyy’s approach to negotiations with Putin.
- Ending the war in Ukraine is very crucial as global economy especially western, facing energy and inflation crisis. India has a limited impact as mediator in ending the war in Ukraine. West and Russia need to realise their futile pursuit of complete victory is hurting them more. Sooner the war ends better for world.