A stunning public rebuke handed out to Russian President Vladimir Putin by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan reflects India’s growing confidence in navigating the changing global dynamics and its clear-cut pursuit of independent foreign policy. “Today’s era is not an era of war” was how Modi put […]
A stunning public rebuke handed out to Russian President Vladimir Putin by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan reflects India’s growing confidence in navigating the changing global dynamics and its clear-cut pursuit of independent foreign policy. “Today’s era is not an era of war” was how Modi put it during his conversation with the Russian strongman in the presence of journalists. The rare reproach, coming amidst calls to end the war in Ukraine, shows the extent of international pressure that Putin is facing from all sides — from his traditional critics in the West and also from the Asian partners whom he cannot paint as ‘stooges’ of the United States. And, there is growing international recognition of India’s role as a peace advocate. Put on the back foot, Putin was forced to give a commitment that he would do his best to stop the war as soon as possible. For India, the Ukraine war poses a daunting diplomatic challenge as it needs to take a nuanced position to protect its national interests without succumbing to the pressures of the West. New Delhi is acutely aware of the continuing need to have Russia as an all-weather friend despite its own growing strategic affinity with the US. After abstaining on a couple of occasions in the past, India voted against Russia in the last United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on the Ukraine war. It has also twice spoken on the Bucha massacres, uncovered in April after the Ukrainian forces had wrested a Russian town.
India will be compelled to take a similar stance when the UN will inevitably take up the issue of mass civilian graves in Izyum, a town recently taken by the Ukrainians. Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, and his troops initially tried to seize Kyiv, the capital, with the intent of toppling Zelenskyy’s government. That strategy had failed, as Ukrainian forces pushed the Russians into a messy retreat. Russia has suffered tens of thousands of casualties, and the war increasingly looks unwinnable. So far, New Delhi has been consistently rooting for a negotiated settlement of all disputes and immediate cessation of hostilities. It took a pragmatic approach throughout the conflict, purely guided by national interests. Overcoming the pressures from the western nations, India continues to buy oil from Russia. And, the S-400 missile defence system supplies have continued. The Russian equipment, especially missile and nuclear technologies, forms the bedrock of India’s defence while the economic partnership with the West, particularly the United States, and its support against an increasingly belligerent China, are key to India’s future. Russia has been hit hard by Western sanctions and has been relying on continued trade with India and China, including sales of oil and natural gas, as a financial lifeline.