‘Is-it-another-cold-war’ kind of questions have been gliding in the international air of diplomacy. Invasion of Russia into Ukraine, and ‘emancipating’ Crimea have been looked into with much of seriousness and thus the question arises. Big fishes like USA, EU, Japan, etc. have expressed their highest order of contempt for Russia’s actions which recently led to the latter’s suspension from powerful G8.
There has been a lot of international attention on India and China as to what political and diplomatic stand they would take on this issue. Coincidentally, both the countries have endorsed Russia’s actions. Let’s have a look at what could have prompted India to, and what are her concerns in the issue.
Russia is India’s biggest and closest friend in the realms of defense and nuclear trade. Even in the era of old Cold War, under the aegis of non-aligned movement, India could develop good relations with Russia and the West. Tie-ups in the sectors of defense equipment, space explorations and nuclear power between India and the then USSR were getting stronger. This strong bondage was clear even after end of cold war. For instance, India’s meaningful silence during the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict was a gentle pat on the back of Russia, through which India was practicing a modernized version of non-aligned theory.
Happenings in the recent days should be read along with this. Though India has pressure from the West and the EU to take a stand against Russia, our government has taken judicious diplomatic stands. Though the official write-ups from MEA and statesmen could be of usual jargons like ‘there should be cordial dialogues amongst the parties concerned, and unity and territorial integrity must be preserved’, India has taken the sides along Russia’s. This is clear from the thanksgiving call made to Singh by Putin, and the latter’s address in their Parliament.
As a member country of BRIC, a group of fast growing nations, it would be softly binding on India to see that Russia is not cornered. For Russia, India is their biggest market of defense weapons. However, in recent years the monopoly of Russia over Indian defense market seems to be diminishing, as India increases its import base to many other countries including France. India is now the biggest importer of defense weapons in the world, China being second. This has made Russia cautious and they’ve made it a point to strengthen the bilateral relations for the sake of their market. Besides, India has been market to Russia’s nuclear technologies which the latter has been exercising since 1970’s, to the great dismay of the West.
India and Ukraine has been exercising bilateral relations in the realms of defense, and pharma-spice-silk exports. The total trade between India and Ukraine is for above 3 billion USD, which shows the serious take on their relations. There has been a steady increase in the economic sheet for last few years. Besides, Ukraine is the largest Commonwealth trading partner of India, second to Russia.
Source: Website of Ukraine High commissioner to India
India has a feel that she has not been thought of as a priority by Ukraine. But that was not the case between India and Russia. If India publicly take a stand against Ukraine, that would affect the geopolitics of Asia-Europe region, especially when Ukraine seems to be getting closer with EU. This, politically, prevents India from an open statement. To read along with this is the fact that Japan strongly condemns Russia for the Crimea crisis.
If India ditches Ukraine, it will seriously and badly affect the pharmaceutical industry of India, whose export comes around 30% of the total import of Ukraine from India. Further, bad relations might affect the hundreds of Indian students studying in Ukraine. In 2012, India had some pacts with Ukraine on defense concerns, which would be affected if things go wrong. The space collaborations of ISRO with National Space Agency of Ukraine could also be put to a halt, if India takes a public, open stand against Ukraine.
One of India’s concerns is about her own J&K issue. If she supports Crimea’s voting in referendum, questions would arise about her stands on the Kashmir issue. In addition to this, India’s cold stands on the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka would also be questioned for double-standards. Though the government changes normally do not affect the general policies of the country, everyone has their eye on the General Elections too, given the circumstances.
If India, along with China, can prevent further deplorable episodes between Russia and Crimea, it would indeed add to India’s race to the list of most powerful countries in the world, both politically and diplomatically. India, hence, doesn’t want a chaotic Ukraine or an isolated Russia. Though India states that all are equal for her, some are more equal. Nevertheless, she understands that it would be difficult for her to take an open stand in the UN favoring Russia because of the reasons discussed. That way, the country’s best interest lies in solving the current state of affairs as soon as possible, with a touch of soft-corner towards Russia, but not letting the relations with Ukraine, EU and the US take a bad turn.