– Mokhjumi Ahmed
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which was launched on 24th February 2022, has raised international condemnation all over the world. On 2 March, at the United Nations General Assembly 141 states unprecedentedly voted in favor of a resolution that requests Russia to withdraw its military forces from Ukraine. At the same time, in addition to strongly condemning Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine, the European Union(EU) went even further as to impose sanctions on Russia. Besides these actions, calls for accountability have been exceptionally strong at the international level, leading 40 state parties to the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court(ICC) to sign a petition on 2 March to bring the case before ICC.
Both in United Nations General Assembly and United Nations Security Council, India abstained from voting against Russia. India’s attitude has generated much hue and cry among international communities. While US President called India’s stand somewhat ‘shaky,’ Boris Johnson expressed disappointment over the same. Regarding India’s oil deal with Russia, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki made an interesting statement. She said, “ I don’t believe this would be violating that(sanction), but also think about where you want to stand. When the history books are written at this moment in time, support for Russia- the Russian leadership- is support for an invasion that obviously is having a devastating impact.’’
However, in a recent interview, India’s External Affairs Minister Mr. S Jaishankar quipped, “ We(India) should take aside and that’s our side.” While responding to a question in Rajya Sabha, he elaborates on India’s position on the same. He says, “ Where our own position on Ukraine is concerned, it is very clear, it is based on six principles- one, that we call for the immediate cessation of violence. Two, we believe that there is no other way than a return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy. Three, we believe, we recognize that the global order is anchored on international law, UN charters, and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states. Four, we call for humanitarian access to the conflict situation. Five, we ourselves give humanitarian assistance, we have given 90 tons of humanitarian assistance so far and we are looking at providing more, especially medicines. And six, we are in touch with the leadership of both the Russian Federation and Ukraine on this matter.’’
Does it suffice for India as it does not explicitly condemn Russia’s aggression?
India’s position pretty much stands on humanitarianism. These principles are nothing short of standing with western nations although India has not explicitly condemned Russia’s aggression. The international community has to understand India’s precarious position. She is not as free as the western, particularly the NATO member countries who can take a moral side. India has to step cautiously considering she is sitting in between two giant nuclear-capable hostile states, who she has boundary issues with. Moreover, Russia is a time-tested friend of India who has been there in all weather. In 1971 when the USA, Pakistan, China, and their allies conspired to wage a war against India, USSR came in support and foiled the attempt. It is not in the culture of India to ditch a friend. In Mahabharata when Krishna asked Karna to leave Duryadhan and take the side of his own brothers ‘Pandavas,’ he said, “O Madhusudhan, I know the defeat of the kauravas is certain. Still, I will fight under Duryadhan’s flag because I am indebted to him.’’
Considering the situation, India’s stand is a balanced one. She neither justifies the aggression to prove friendship to Russia nor does she stand explicitly against Russia. She cannot be said to be on the wrong side of history, as propounded by many. India must not be judged as per western yardsticks. West has its own measures to maintain peace. But India will have to depend on other countries for support if two or more hostile powers conspire against her. If India supports aggression, it will mean that in the future when some other aggressive country invades India, she will lack moral ground to call for support. This would be disastrous for the nation. Similarly, if India supports Ukraine, this will mean the ditching of a great friend. That will definitely reduce India’s credibility as a friendly nation in the international arena. Because Russia has perhaps been the closest of all allies of India. Although India is walking on a double-edged sword, she is left with not much option except for sitting on the fence for the time being.
Is Will history judge India as being on the wrong side of history?
Many western thinkers stipulated that India would be judged to be on the wrong side of history in the future. However, one has to understand that a country’s foreign policy is guided by its own national interest. The country comes first. Taking one side would simply mean leaving the other. At this moment in history, India cannot afford to leave either side. While trade relations with western countries and USA is pretty high, India’s defense imports depend mostly on Russia. Under such circumstances, she should hold on to both without hurting any of them. Moreover, India is not insensitive to the crisis. She is actively neutral in the sense that she engages with the leadership of both countries to mitigate the escalation.
India’s position will be understood by the posterity because she stood for peace, dialogue, and diplomatic solutions. Her neutrality will not be misconstrued by historians as complicity. Her neutrality is guided by the principle of peace, collaboration, and international brotherhood. She does not want the situation to escalate but to mitigate it. Posterity will understand India’s side and the side is for peace and against war.