On February 26, the United Nations Security Council voted on a resolution proposed by the United States. Of the 15 members of the Security Council, 11 voted in favor and Russia unsurprisingly used its veto to kill the resolution. China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstained. Two days later, abstained on a vote at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that set up an international commission of inquiry into actions in Ukraine. The country also abstained at the UN General Assembly, which voted 141-5 to condemn the Russian invasion of .
India’s abstentions have led to much heartburn in the Article 2(4) of the Charter of the United Nations. Like many others, he took the view that has sided with an aggressive autocrat, weakened its democratic credentials and proved to be a potentially unreliable partner of the West. The Economist has called “abstemious to a fault.”and Europe. One high-flying national security lawyer in Washington argued that was wrong to ignore tearing down
American Hypocrisy and Half-Measures Damn Ukraine and Help Russia
In particular, serving and retired American and British diplomats have been wringing their hands at India’s reticence to vote against designating as a “major defense partner” in 2016. In 2018, the elevated to Strategic Trade Authorization tier 1 status, giving license-free access to a wide range of military and dual-use technologies regulated by the Department of Commerce, a privilege the accords to very few other countries. On Capitol Hill, India’s abstention is further viewed as an act of bad faith because many members of Congress and senators worked hard to waive sanctions against . These were triggered by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act when bought Russian S-400 missile systems.. For many Americans, this is a betrayal of the good faith that the has reposed in by giving the country a special nuclear deal in 2008 and
Two Unfriendly Nuclear Neighbors
Such fears are overblown. development in is going on at a record pace and growth remains high amidst inflationary pressures. Despite some blunders such as the 2016 demonetization of high-denomination currency notes and the botched 2017 rollout of the goods and services tax, the Modi-led BJP has become more market-friendly.remains a thriving democracy. Elections just took place in five states after colorful political campaigns. Infrastructure
As per the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, ranked 63 out of the surveyed 190 countries, a marked improvement from the 134 rank in 2014 when Modi came to power. Like the , is a fractious and, at times, exasperating democracy, but it is a fast-growing large economy. Even as manufacturers Chevrolet and Ford exited the Indian market, Korean Kia and Chinese MG Motor India have achieved much success.
America’s Afghanistan’s fiasco,” has been picking up the pieces in an increasingly unstable region. The country is now providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people even as the has abandoned them. Thousands of trucks roll out daily from to Afghanistan via Pakistan as part of India’s effort to feed millions of starving Afghans. is delivering 50,000 tons of wheat to a country led by the Taliban. Earlier, sent 500,000 coronavirus vaccines as well as 13 tons of essential medicines and winter clothing to Afghanistan. Despite its reservations about the new regime in Kabul that offered refuge to hijackers of an Indian plane in 1999 and sent jihadists to Kashmir, a government branded as anti-Muslim by The New York Times is behaving magnanimously to help millions of Afghans facing starvation.is also proving to be a major force for stability in the region. After “
Despite its thriving democracy and growing economy, words of the late Stephen Philip Cohen, uses “terror as an instrument of state policy in Kashmir.” To its east lies an increasingly aggressive led by President Xi Jinping assiduously using salami-slicing tactics to claim more Indian territory. In sharp contrast to the , has two nuclear-armed neighbors and faces the specter of a two-front war given what Andrew Small has called the – axis.remains a highly vulnerable nation in an extremely rough neighborhood. To its west lies an increasingly more radical that, in the
National security that occupies much headspace in Washington is a constant headache for New Delhi. Multiple insurgencies, street protests, mass movements, Soviet Union. A 1998 report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) tells was among the top three recipients of /Russian weapons from 1982 to 1996.interference and the specter of nuclear war are a daily worry. During the Cold War, was an ally of the and benefited greatly from American funding of the Afghan jihad against the
More recently, sheet makes clear that is now the biggest importer of French and Israeli arms. From 2011-15 to 2016-20 Russian arms exports to dropped by 53%, but the country still remained the top importer. In 2016-20, , France and Israel’s share of India’s arms imports comprised 49%, 18% and 13% respectively. A retired assistant chief of the integrated staff estimates that around 70% of India’s military arsenal is of Russian origin.has diversified its arms imports. A 2021 SIPRI fact
Given Indian dependence on Russian military hardware, it is only natural that New Delhi cannot afford to annoy Moscow. Critical Russian spares keep the defense forces combat-ready. For high-tech weaponry, which has the added advantage of coming at affordable prices,relies on . Moscow has also shared software and proprietary interaction elements for weapons delivery systems with New Delhi. Furthermore, allows to integrate locally-made weapons into its fighter jets or naval vessels unlike the or even France.
From New Delhi’s point of view, the BrahMos that the Philippines recently bought is indigenized Russian technology as is India’s main battle tank.– military-technical cooperation is even more valuable than Russian military kit. Unlike the West, has been willing to transfer technology, enabling to indigenize some of its defense production. This began in the 1960s when moved closer to the even as became a full-fledged ally. Since then, Moscow has shared critical technologies over many decades with New Delhi. India’s supersonic anti-ship missile
As a vulnerable nation in a rough neighborhood,relies on for security. Therefore, New Delhi decided it could not upset Moscow and abstained at all forums.
The China Factor
More than anyone else,fears a – axis. If Moscow threw in its lot with Beijing, — deprived of technology and critical spares — might face a military catastrophe. If sided with in case of a conflict between the two Asian giants, would face certain defeat.
Recent military cooperation between circumnavigated Japan’s main island of Honshu for the very first time. This joint exercise demonstrated that and now have a new strategic partnership. Despite their rivalry in Central Asia and potential disputes over a long border, the two could team up like Germany and Austria-Hungary before World War I. Such a scenario would threaten both Asia and Europe but would spell disaster for . Therefore, New Delhi has been working hard to bolster its ties with Moscow.and has worried . A few months ago, a flotilla of 10 Russian and Chinese warships
In December 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin flew to words of a seasoned Indian diplomat Ashok Sajjanhar, Putin’s visit “reinvigorated a time-tested strategic partnership between and .”to meet Modi. During Putin’s trip, both countries signed a flurry of arms and trade deals. Apart from declarations about boosting trade and investment as well as purchasing various military equipment, transferred the technology and agreed to manufacture more than 700,000 AK-203 rifles in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh where the BJP has just been reelected. In the
Sajjanhar left unsaid what astute Indian diplomats say in private. India’s close relationship withis insurance against . New Delhi wants Moscow to act as a moderating influence on Beijing and act as an honest broker between the two Asian giants. believes that there is no power other than that could act as its bridge to .
The Weight of History
When Sajjanhar was speaking about a time-tested relationship, he meant decades of close Atlantic Charter, promising independence to the colonies. However, relationships soured soon after independence because chose socialism under its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.– ties. During World War II and in the run-up to independence in 1947, the earned much goodwill because Franklin D. Roosevelt championed the
When theconducted a coup against the democratically elected Iranian government of Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953, came to view the as a neocolonial power. It is easy to forget now that Washington backed the interests of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company over those of the government of Iran, triggering trepidation among Indian leaders who remembered clearly that their country was colonized by the British East Company. The coup gave both capitalism and the a bad name and pushed New Delhi closer to Moscow.
In the following years, India’s ties with the paper for the Wilson Center, New Delhi now became “a crucial partner in international politics for Moscow.”strengthened. As became a firm Cold War ally of the , embraced socialism ever more firmly and became a de facto ally, claims of non-alignment notwithstanding. In 1956, the tanks crushed the Hungarian Revolution. Nehru censured Moscow in private but refused to condemn action even as he railed against the Anglo-French intervention in the Suez. As per Swapna Kona Nayudu’s well-researched
In 1968, the Soviets crushed the Prague Spring, an uprising in then-Czechoslovakia that aimed to reform the communist regime. Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi, was prime minister, and she publicly called for the Soviets to withdraw their troops. In the UN Security Council, though,abstained in the vote on the Czechoslovakia matter, attracting widespread condemnation from the American press.
Three years later, rape in a genocide of horrific proportions. During the 1971 – War, Richard Nixon called Gandhi a “bitch” and Henry Kissinger termed Indians as “bastards.” Indian diplomats repeatedly point out that Nixon and Kissinger ignored their own diplomats like Archer Blood who valiantly spoke truth to power about Pakistani atrocities, a story chronicled superbly by Princeton professor Gary J. Bass in “The Blood Telegram.” Instead, they sent vessels from the Seventh Fleet to intervene on Pakistan’s behalf. It was the Soviets who came to India’s rescue by sending their naval vessels to counter the American ones.went to war with to liberate Bangladesh. This did not go down well in the , despite the fact that the military dictatorship of was inflicting murder, torture and
launched Operation Tupac to “bleed through a thousand cuts” by championing insurgencies within . First Punjab and then Kashmir went up in flames. Terrorism became a feature of daily life for , but the turned a Nelson’s eye to the phenomenon until the grim attacks of September 11, 2001.repaid Moscow’s 1971 favor when troops invaded Afghanistan. In 1980, refused to condemn this invasion at the UN. During the decade that followed, the funded the mujahideen in Afghanistan through . Relations between the and became closer than ever at a time when General Zia-ul-Haq
Since those attacks,and the have moved closer together. Thousands of Indian students study in the every year, American investment has flowed into and defense cooperation has steadily increased. The views as a valuable partner to contain the rise of an aggressive , and New Delhi cares more about Washington than any other capital on the planet.
Even as nuclear power plants in energy-hungry . Plans to import more Russian oil and gas have also been in the works. Because of these ties, did not condemn Russian action against Crimea in 2014. The left-leaning government in power at that time went on to say that had “legitimate” interests in .– ties have deepened, New Delhi has retained close ties with Moscow. continues to build
It is important to note that no opposition party has criticized the government’s position. Shashi Tharoor, a flamboyant MP of the Indian National Congress party who said that was on “the wrong side of history,” got rapped on the knuckles by his bosses. The opposition and the government have almost identical views on the matter. Neither supports Russian aggression against , but no party wants to criticize an old friend of the nation.
Political Factors, Domestic and International
War inis obviously not in India’s interest. imports energy, and rising oil prices are going to unleash inflation in an economy with high unemployment. This worries both political and business leaders. In its statement at the UN, called for peace and diplomacy. In official statements, has also expressed support for ’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. does not in any way support Russian aggression but cannot criticize Moscow for a host of reasons described above as well as often overlooked political factors.
Indian leaders have also been preoccupied with elections in five critical states. Political analysts consider these elections to be a dress rehearsal for the 2024 national elections. With stakes so high, the ruling BJP was under pressure to bring home thousands of Indian students studying in safely. For this, relied on . While some might say this necessitated a Faustian silence, 18,000 Indian lives were at stake.
rounds on social media. These may be info ops by Russians, but they have touched a chord among the masses. Press reports of fleeing Indian students facing racism and segregation at the Ukrainian border have not helped, nor have memories of Ukrainian arms deals with , which have triggered Indian suspicions. Even though is against the conflict, New Delhi does not want to forsake an old friend and support a potentially hostile power.also had reservations about . Reports of Indian students facing racism in have been doing the
racist reportage” of Western media that treats blue-eyed, blonde Ukrainian refugees differently to Syrian or Afghan ones.also suspects the motives of the West in taking on Putin. There is a strong feeling across nearly all political parties that the would not show the same concern for a non-white nation in Asia or Africa. Left-leaning parties point out that the and the UK based their 2003 invasion of Iraq on a pack of lies. A popular Indian television anchor has railed against the “
There is also another matter driving India’s hesitation to go along completely with thein targeting . An increasing trust deficit between the Democrats and the BJP is harming – relations. For years, The New York Times and The Washington Post have relentlessly criticized the BJP, accusing the party of being authoritarian, if not fascist. Even food aid to the impoverished citizens in Taliban-led Afghanistan did not get any recognition from the papers of record in New York and Washington.
Billionaires like George Soros who support Democrats have been vocal against the BJP and Modi. Their foundations have also funded Indian organizations opposed to the BJP. Americans see this funding as an expression of idealism that seeks to promote civil society and democracy. On the other hand, many Indians see American funding as a sinister ploy to weaken the nationalist BJP and replace them with weak, pliant leaders. Indians are also irked by the fact that Democrats rarely give credit to the BJP for winning elections, the democratic proof of its platform’s popularity.
Democrats have also been pressuring homosexuality but has no power to intervene in a matter pending before the court. The failure of Democrats to recognize this reeks of a white savior complex that destroys trust between Washington and New Delhi.to legalize gay marriage, forgetting that the issue is pending before the Indian Supreme Court. Indians point out that it was the British who decreed “unnatural” sexual acts” as not just illegal but also imprisonable during Queen Victoria’s heyday. The BJP has already come out in favor of legalizing
Many BJP leaders are convinced that the Democrats are plotting some sort of a regime change in the 2024 elections. They believe there is an elaborate game plan in place to discredit Modi and the BJP. In this worldview, the Democrat establishment is manipulating discourse and peddling narratives that could lead to some version of the Orange Revolution in. They are convinced that once Putin goes, Modi might be next. Even though is opposed to a war that is severely hurting its economy, this fear of Western interference in domestic political matters is one more reason for to abstain from turning on its old friend .
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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