What are India’s stakes in its ties with Ukraine, Russia?

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What are India’s stakes in its ties with Ukraine, Russia?

  • In the midst of increasing tensions between Russia and the West, led by the United States, India issued its first formal comment this week.
  • It's been a stressful month and a half, with the threat of war hanging huge.

Current situation

  • Russia has deployed around 100,000 troops near Ukraine's border, stoking concerns of a regional war.
  • Russia has constantly denied any plans for an attack, but the United States and its NATO allies fear Russia is preparing for conflict.
  • NATO is concerned about Russia's military actions in Ukraine and Georgia.
  • Meanwhile, as emotions rose, Ukrainian officials attempted to defuse the situation.

Historical ties

  • Ukraine and Russia have shared cultural, linguistic, and family ties for hundreds of years.
  • Ukraine was the Soviet Union's second-most powerful republic after Russia, and it played a critical geopolitical, economic, and cultural role.
  • Since Ukraine's breakup from the Soviet Union, Russia and the West have competed for increased influence in the nation in order to maintain the region's power balance.
  • After Russia's annexation of Ukraine's the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists erupted in eastern Ukraine.
  • Over 14,000 people have been dead, and Ukraine's industrial heartland, known as the Donbas, has been decimated.
  • The West aligned against Russian President Vladimir Putin, while India expressed "alarm" but tempered it by mentioning "legitimate Russian concerns."

What led to the current situation?

  • It began in mid-December when Russia told Western powers, including the US, that it had a list of demands.
  • Russia wants a "written promise" from the West that NATO will not expand farther east.
  • The likely departure of US nuclear weapons from Europe, as well as the removal of NATO soldiers from Poland and the Baltic nations.
  • One of the most critical demands was that Ukraine never be permitted to join NATO. This has been ruled out by the United States and the rest of the Western world.
  • In the presence of interlocutors from France, Germany, the United States, and Russia, the two parties are negotiating in Paris.

Russia’s Stand

  • Russia wants assurances from the United States that Ukraine will not be admitted to NATO. The United States, on the other hand, is unwilling to provide such assurances.
  • NATO would have to agree to cease all aspirations for membership, not only with Ukraine, and reduce its presence in countries like Estonia, which are near to Russia's borders.
  • According to Russia, the tension is being created to prevent Europe from cooperating with Russia on energy issues.
  • This remark reveals the underlying tensions between the United States and Russia over the Nord Stream 2 gas project, which would transport Russian gas to central Europe.
  • In order to obtain sanctions relief and other concessions from the West, Russia is keeping tensions near the Ukraine border high.

Is there a geography and resource angle too?

  • Ukraine is Europe's second-largest country, after Russia.
  • It has borders with four NATO nations and has large ports on the Black Sea.
  • One-third of Europe's natural gas comes from Russia, giving Putin considerable influence in any disagreement with the West, and one of the key pipelines runs through Ukraine.
  • Controlling this Ukrainian region would improve the safety of Russia's pipelines.

Where does the west Stand?

  • The West is yet to respond to Russia's red lines over NATO's eastward expansion, the deployment of offensive weapons near its borders, and the denial of provocative military activities.
  • The West has accused Russia of preparing for an invasion, alleging that tens of thousands of troops have been positioned near Ukraine's borders.
  • The US rebuffed Russia's proposals, stating that it would not talk without Europe's participation.
  • Ukraine serves as a vital buffer between Russia and the West for the United States and the European Union.
  • As tensions with Russia escalate, the United States and the European Union are becoming more determined to keep Ukraine out of Russian hands.

US angle

  • Many US platforms have been used for reconnaissance and surveillance along the India-China border.
  • Winter clothing for 50,000 Russia-China troops has been sourced from these Western strategic partners.
  • India is also conscious that the hostility between the West and Russia, with talks of sanctions being considered, is likely to push Moscow in the direction of Beijing, hence strengthening the Chinese.
  • Also, Moscow's negotiations draw a wedge between US and its European allies is also being watched carefully here.

India’s Response

  • India issued its first public remark on the conflict, saying, "We have been closely watching developments in Ukraine, particularly ongoing high-level conversations between Russia and the United States."
  • We appeal for a peaceful settlement to the crisis via continuous diplomatic efforts in the area and beyond for long-term peace and stability."
  • India signaling its support for longstanding partner Russia on the Ukraine crisis during a UNSC meeting in 2021.
  • India has pushed for political and diplomatic solutions that protect all nations in the region's legitimate interests while also ensuring long-term peace and stability in Europe and beyond.
  • Only peaceful discourse can lead to a long-term solution that is agreeable to all parties involved.
  • India voted against a Ukraine-sponsored resolution in the UN: that condemned alleged human rights violations in Crimea thereby backing old ally Russia on the issue.

Concerns for India

  • With important strategic allies on both sides, India cannot afford to make hasty decisions that jeopardize its essential interests.
  • Nearly 60% of India's military supplies are made in Russia, thus the country cannot afford to offend Moscow, especially given the ongoing standoff between Indian and Chinese forces on the eastern border.
  • Several key defence deals have been struck between India and Russia, including the S400 missile system and the AK-203 assault weapon.
  • From India's strategic perspective, the United States and Europe are both essential partners.
  • Along the India-China border, many American platforms have been utilized for reconnaissance and monitoring.
  • These western strategic allies have provided winter apparel for 50,000 troops.
  • Another concern for Delhi is the small Indian community in Ukraine, comprising mostly students in medical colleges.
  • The Indian Embassy in Ukraine has started collating information on the students as part of preparations for any hostilities.

The China Factor

  • China also believes Ukraine should not be admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
  • In such a case, if Russia is barred from Western countries and the United States, China may compensate.
  • This would further strengthen China's ties with Russia, perhaps jeopardising India's and Russia's relationship.

Way forward

  • To resolve the escalating crisis between Russia and Ukraine, international collaboration is required.
  • Both nations should avoid making any moves that may exacerbate tensions.
  • India has been keeping a careful eye on events in Ukraine, notably the current high-level talks between Russia and the United States.
  • The Indian embassy in Ukraine has requested that all Indian nationals in Ukraine, including students, register with the mission by January 31, 2022, so that efficient coordination and timely distribution of information can take place.
  • Indian people should also keep an eye on the embassy's website, as well as its Twitter and Facebook accounts, for developments.