Lingering War

NINE months after it began, the ongoing war in Ukraine has slipped under the radar.  But the war is, meanwhile, going on, and the two sides are nowhere closer to either a military victory or on the path of a negotiated settlement. It is, however, true that Ukraine backed by NATO support has made some important battlefield gains. Russia despite reverses, remains still in a commanding position on the ground. While the war looks set to go on for now, it has left far-reaching implications for the geopolitics. In South Asia too, Ukraine war has tested the ability of the countries to navigate their relationship with the US-led bloc and China-Russia sphere of influence.

For example, in South Asia, India has found itself in a tough situation to straddle its alliance with the US and its longstanding relationship with Russia. And so far it has been successful in pursuing a tight balancing act. While New Delhi has gone along with the west as for as the illegitimacy of the war, it has refused to abandon Russia. The west has found it difficult to countenance this assertion on the part of India. As a probable result, recent months have witnessed a newfound warmth between the west and Pakistan. This shift became apparent by the sudden rekindling of US-Pakistan ties.

Though the US tilt towards India is still there, the US in recents weeks has made an effort to accommodate Pakistan which under Imran Khan was threatening to draw closer to China-Russia axis. But with Khan’s loss of power in a no-confidence vote which he blames on the US, Washington has sought to repair its otherwise frayed relations with Islamabad and has also begun to respond to its concerns. The US has also made it known that it may be playing a furtive role to get India and Pakistan to restore engagement.

Developments like these have been a source of concern for New Delhi which sees it as a renewed appeasement of Pakistan.  Many analysts in India see it as a punishment for India’s pursuit of an independent foreign policy in response to the ongoing war in Ukraine. Besides abstaining from western resolutions against Russia, India continues to import oil from the country at discounted rates, something that has not pleased western countries.

But India has stood firm. Rather than joining the western camp, India has sought to play a mediatory role in resolving the Ukraine crisis. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting told him that “this is not an era of war” and that the Ukraine issue should be settled by diplomacy. At the end of the day, India will be better served by serving its own interests and this requires the country to strike a balance between the demands of the west and the concerns of Russia, its longstanding ally.

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