Russia-Ukraine conflict: Running with hare and hunting with hounds lands India in trouble

Islamabad, February 26 (KMS): The ongoing dispute between the US-led NATO countries and Russia over Ukraine has landed India in a troubled water and New Delhi is finding it hard to strike a balance between the US and Russia, said experts who are closely watching the development.

The United States would like to see India on its side while the latter is also strategically close to Russia. New Delhi has long been a buyer of Russian defense equipment and weapons. In view of its standoff with China in Ladakh and elsewhere, India does not want to annoy Russia, either.

In an effort to strike a balance between the United States and Russia, India did not take part in the January 31 UN Security Council vote to discuss Ukraine tensions.

Amid rising tensions between Russia and the United States, India is keen that its strategic partners do not clash so that Delhi does not have to side with either side.

In this regard, diplomatic experts are expressing their views on the issue in the media.

Retired Major General of the Indian Army Harsh Kakkar wrote in a local English newspaper The Statesman on February 1 that “neutrality is the best option for India.” There is no doubt that India’s neutrality has troubled the United States.

India relies heavily on Russia for its military needs. India buys 55% of its military equipment from Russia. India bought S-400 missile system from Russia despite opposition by the US.

The United States has been pressuring India to rescind the agreement, but India maintains that its foreign policy is independent and that it puts national interests first in arms procurement.

India also seeks an alliance with the United States to secure the support of the Quad Group to resolve its border dispute with Beijing.

Pro-government Indian news channel Zee News in one of its programmes spoke about the Indian ‘dilemma’. The program discussed that there is a big challenge for Narendra Modi in the case of Ukraine as both US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are “friends” of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The growing friendship between India and the United States does not mean that its old friendship with Russia has weakened from anywhere,” the programme said.

In the case of Ukraine, Russia’s tensions with the United States have increased, and the sanctions would further bring Moscow close to China.

If India secretly sides with the United States on the Ukraine conflict, it will have a profound effect on Russia’s supply of arms to New Delhi.

Russia has so far not openly sided with anyone in the border dispute between India and China, and India hopes that Russia will continue to be neutral in this matter. However, in the face of the Russia-Ukraine war and the sanctions by the West on Russia would create more worries for India.

“The United States has so far been India’s most important strategic partner,” Ranjeet Sen, an international affairs analyst, wrote in the January 22 issue of The Tribune. If India is to compete with China, it needs a partnership with the United States. If relations with the United States remain strong, India will be in a position to meet the challenge of China. But the Indo-US alliance remains a matter of concern for Russia.

Will India be able to maintain equality?

In November 2020, UN passed a resolution on alleged human rights violations in Crimea. At the time, India had voted against the proposal.

Earlier in 2014, Manmohan Singh’s government opposed Western sanctions on Russia following the annexation of Crimea.

However, the crisis in Ukraine was discussed at the UN Security Council on January 31.

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