PM Modi in his statement on Russia-Ukraine conflict recently said,from the start of the Ukraine crisis, India has called for immediate cessation of hostilities and stressed that talks are the only solution to resolve the dispute. India believes there will be no winner in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and all will suffer losses.
That is the summation of India’s stand on the ongoing European conflict.
However, the US and EU have responded to Russia’s actions by adopting a tough stance, such as imposing far-reaching sanctions that have been described as crippling in the Western press.
And, they are keen to enlist greater support from New Delhi in all of this, particularly in ensuring that it doesn’t help Moscow circumvent their sanctions in any way.
Then there is the fact that India has refrained from overt criticism of Russia. India was among the countries that abstained in a UN vote to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.
However, India also refrained from backing a Russian resolution that sought to deflect the blame for the humanitarian crisis it has created in Ukraine. Amid all of this, Moscow has praised New Delhi’s “independent foreign policy” with regard to the ongoing conflict.
[Byte of Sergeĭ Viktorovich Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, during his recent India visit.]
While Moscow might appear to be satisfied, the West, particularly the US, isn’t. And their view of India’s policy with regard to the Russia-Ukraine crisis was best summed up by the US President himself earlier in March.
At the end of March, the US had said that it would not like to see a rapid acceleration in India’s imports from Russia, including energy and other commodities.
India, however, has followed a policy that it says is in keeping with its national interests.
Just consider the following Business Standard reports - Imports from Russia rose nearly 33 per cent to 1.1 billion dollars in March from a shade above 831 million dollars in the previous month. This growth in imports was largely on account of oil.
Note that India and Russia have also been exploring transactions through the rupee-ruble mechanism. Such a mechanism would also cause tensions between India and America and its allies.
There have also been calls for India to curtail its purchases of Russian military equipment. However, given the strategic nature of some of these platforms, that too might prove to be a tall order, at least in the immediate future.
This is the context in which Prime Minister Modi will be participating in the G7 summit.
Speaking to Business Standard, Shyam Saran, Former Foreign Secretary and Senior Fellow, CPR, said G7 summit invitation should not be looked at through narrow lens of India-Russia ties alone. India-Russia ties are only one part of the agenda.
It is important that India, Europe, US and other Quad countries work together to shape the geopolitical environment, he said. The West understands that India-Russia ties have legacy issues and the ties have been declining in past few years. India’s rhetorical neutrality is not so important, Saran says adding that India and the West must instead work on substantive issues. India’s ties with US, Europe and Japan will be crucial for its technological and economic transformation.
Yet, there’s unlikely to be a sudden shift in India-Russia relations due to Western coaxing. Instead, they will follow the trajectory that has become evident in the past few years, where India will find growing convergence with the West, but continue to balance its ties with Russia, even as those ties lose the sheen they had during the Soviet era and the early 2000s.