Ukraine Policy 

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AS the war in Ukraine drags on, India is finding it increasingly difficult to maintain its neutral policy stance between the West and Russia. US President Joe Biden in a virtual meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday urged him to throw his lot with the nations resisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He said the US and India are going to continue “close consultation on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war”.  However, the PM Modi without naming Russia called the “killings of innocent civilians” in Ukraine’s Bucha city “very worrying”, and said India immediately condemned the killings and called for an independent probe. Earlier foreign minister  S Jaishankar and India’s envoy at the United Nations T S Tirumurti have condemned Bucha killings unequivocally.

The virtual meeting took place ahead of the 2+2 talks between the US and India’s Defence and Foreign Ministers which were also dominated by the discussion on the war in Ukraine. The US demand for India is to give up its neutral stance on the war and support western war efforts against Russia. But it is not an easy choice for India. The country has for decades had deep relations with Russia and its predecessor the Soviet Union which also supported it on Kashmir by vetoing the successive resolutions in the Security Council.  So, joining the west against Russia would neither be feasible nor would it be without costs for the country.

Making things further difficult for New Delhi is the pressure from China and Russia which want it to be a part of their bloc against the west. Recently, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited India to press the same point. These were very significant visits.  The Chinese foreign minister urged India to not support the west over Ukraine and also sought to normalize the relationship between the two countries. But New Delhi has made it clear that it was not in the mood to improve its relations with Beijing until the latter didn’t pull back its troops from the territory it has captured in Ladakh. China claims the captured area as its territory and wants New Delhi to move on and accept the new status quo in Ladakh as a fait accompli. New Delhi, however, will not do so as was made clear by foreign minister S Jaishankar.

Though this tricky geopolitical situation has its opportunities for New Delhi, it has also its costs. The US has already threatened consequences if India didn’t stop importing oil and gas from Russia. But India has not given up its principled policy, one that is in the best interest of its people.

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