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What lessons should India learn from Ukraine crisis?

India’s decision to abstain from voting against Russia in UNSC could turn the world opinion against New Delhi if there is a war with China and Pakistan

N S Venkataraman Mar 02, 2022
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Ukraine crisis (Photo: Youtube)

When the Ukraine President spoke to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi over telephone, he sought India’s political support in his hour of crisis. It was reported that Modi said that war and hostility should end in Ukraine immediately and offered India’s services to mediate peace between Ukraine and Russia.  It appears that Modi was eloquently silent by not offering political support to Ukraine. 

One wonders what would have been the thought process of Modi when he was speaking to the Ukraine President. Obviously, Modi must have wondered whether India too would have to face a situation as faced by Ukraine in the event of a war with China and Pakistan. 

Most nations have sympathized with Ukraine and offered support but are unwilling to intervene with military force to save it from occupation. The US and NATO countries have responded by extending sanctions against Russia though it is still not clear to what extent they will go as several NATO countries depend on Russia for their energy needs.

Inida’s problems 

India has two hostile neighbours: China and Pakistan. These two countries have not concealed their hostility towards India and claim Indian territory as their own; Pakistan occupies substantial area of Kashmir and China occupies thousands of kilometres of Indian territory. Both these countries have used every opportunity to nag India and oppose India in world forums.

There is a grim possibility of China and Pakistan joining together and starting an armed confrontation against India. If and when such a confrontation takes place, what sort of support will India get from other countries?

In all probability, Russia will stay neutral to avoid antagonizing China, just as India stood neutral in the UN Security Council when a resolution was sought to be passed condemning Russia. 

In the case of the US and countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle east and Africa, almost will express their concern in the event of military conflict between India on one hand and Pakistan and China on the other but will refrain from coming to India’s support in any significant way.   

Will US back India? 

In the case of Ukraine, the US and Europe voiced their strong support for Kyiv in view of the geopolitical issues in Europe. In the case of a war between India and China/Pakistan, New Delhi will not get this level of support.

In the case of Ukraine, Russia supported some divisive and secessionist forces in Ukraine and extended recognition to two regions in Ukraine as independent republics. Just as it happened in Ukraine, in India too, China and Pakistan can create internal issues for the government. 

In such a situation, there is no option for India other than strengthening its military base with modern and sophisticated equipment.  One can be sure that the Modi government is taking necessary steps to strengthen the military base.  Still, to what extent can India build military capability to confront China?

India in a spot 

Though India claims that it has not supported Russia but stayed neutral by abstaining from voting in UNSC, the perception around the world is that New Delhi has backed Moscow for all practical purposes. This action of the Modi government could turn the world opinion against India in the event of a war like situation with China and Pakistan. 

The fact is the Modi government has a difficult choice to make in taking sides in the Ukraine crisis and has taken a calculated risk by giving an impression of being neutral. The President of Ukraine has made it more difficult for Modi by seeking political support. 

(The writer is a Trustee, NGO Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at nsvenkatchennai@gmail.com) 

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