After Vladimir Putin declared “special military operation” in Ukraine on Thursday, India seems to be in a tight spot but continues to maintain favourable relations with both Russia and US as it had last month abstained from a procedural vote at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the crisis. India’s position on the current tension of staying clear of US-Russia crosshairs is reminiscent of its quintessential ‘strategic autonomy’.
India has called for “immediate de-escalation and refraining from any further action that could contribute to worsening of the situations.” India’s permanent representative at the UN TS Tirumurti had said, “We note with regret, that calls for international community to give time to recent initiatives undertaken by parties to defuse tensions were not heeded to. The situation is in danger of spiraling into a major crisis. We express deep concern over the developments, which if not handled carefully, may well undermine the peace and security of the region.”
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According to sources, the National Security Council will discuss today the Ukraine crisis in view of the following issues:
S 400 Delivery and US Waiver
The Ukraine crisis comes at a time when Russia started the delivery of S-400 air defence system to India, which hopes to get a waiver of US. sanctions on this. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine will complicate both the delivery of the missile system, and the possibility of a presidential waiver, the sources are saying.
The larger cause of concern is that the US wants “all of our allies, partners” to forgo transactions with Russia that risk triggering sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). CAATSA is a tough US law which authorises the administration to impose sanctions on countries that purchase major defence hardware from Russia in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.
Crisis May Bring Russia and China Closer
The ongoing conflict will make Moscow more dependent on friends such as China and build a regional bloc of sorts that India is not a part of. The world has seen how Russia, China and Pakistan held similar positions during the Afghanistan crisis due to their mutual strategic interests in the Taliban-ruled country.
Russia views Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between India, US, Japan and Australia) and the Indo-Pacific concept, which it terms as a “construct aimed at containing China”, as being against its Asia-Pacific interests and a revival of Cold War bloc politics. If there is a further breakdown of Russia-West ties due to the Ukraine conflict, Russia aversion to the above “concepts” may get stronger, and also the forums, which are binding India to the US.
India’s Investment in Russia
India’s plans in Russia’s energy sector and in the development of its Far East policy, in general, would become problematic, especially by the reluctance of the private sector to fall afoul of the complex US sanctions. The new sanctions could exclude Russia from the swift payments system.
The Indian Oil Corporation signed a contract with Rosneft in 2020 for the supply of two million tonnes per annum of crude oil to India via the port of Novorossiysk (a Russian port on Black Sea). This is the first-ever annual oil purchase deal between the two countries. Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan had called it a “milestone” in the India-Russia ties.
India’s cumulative investment in oil and gas projects in Russia exceeds US $15 billion.
What is India’s Stand on the Issue?
During Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, India did not take part in any western power’s condemnation of Putin’s country, and maintained a “low profile” on the issue.
In November 2020, India voted against a Ukraine-sponsored resolution in the UN that condemned alleged human rights violations in Crimea thereby backing Russia on the issue. On February 22, 2022, India suggested at the UN Security Council that “quiet and constructive diplomacy” is the need of the hour and any step that could escalate the tension should be avoided.
India’s stand has been welcomed by Russia.