NEW DELHI – India’s decision to abstain from voting on a UN Security Council resolution demanding Russia has stopped invading Ukraine does not mean Moscow’s support, experts say, but reflects New Delhi’s dependence on its Cold War ally for energy, weapons and support in conflicts with neighbors.
India on Friday regretted abandoning the path of diplomacy, but abstained from voting alongside the United States on a resolution that would change its ties with Russia, which have lasted more than seven decades. Russia has vetoed the voteand China and the United Arab Emirates also abstained.
“We did not support what Russia did. We abstained. It is right to do so in those circumstances,” said G. Portasarti, a retired Indian diplomat.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, he called for an “immediate end to the violence.” Modi called for the return of diplomacy, saying that “disagreements between Russia and the NATO group can only be resolved through honest and sincere dialogue. ”
In the past, India depended on Soviet support and veto power in the Security Council in a dispute over Kashmir with its longtime rival Pakistan.
The territory of the Himalayas divided between India and Pakistan, but both claim it completely. India accuses Pakistan of supporting armed rebels in Kashmir in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and pushed nuclear adversaries to two wars.
India watched warily as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has landed in Moscow as Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine. Putin met with Khan for almost three hours in the midst of the crisis.
The war in Ukraine has not only added to the problems New Delhi has faced in Kashmir, but also along its troubled mountain border with China. Both Pakistan and China appear to be on Russia’s side, while India believes Moscow has the leverage to change Beijing’s tough stance on the border.
Confrontation in June 2020 along the disputed Sino-Indian border dramatically changed their already difficult relationship, as competing troops fought with stones, batons and fists. At least 20 Indian servicemen and four Chinese soldiers were killed. Since then, despite negotiations, tensions have persisted.
As fighting in Ukraine continued, several organizations staged protests in the Indian capital on the second day of Saturday, demanding an end to Russian aggression and pressuring the Indian government to evacuate thousands of Indians, mostly students who were there.
Protap Sen, a 20-year-old student, said India’s decision to abstain from voting in the Security Council may not be ideal, but in the circumstances it was the best option.
“International politics is like a wild, wild west. (India) must balance between the United States and the Western world and Russia, a close ally of India for decades, ”he said.
C. Raja Mohan, a senior researcher at the Institute for Society Policy in Asia, said the problem is that India continues to depend on Russian weapons.
“It’s not just an abstract issue. But the fact is that India is at the center of a war with China. India is in confrontation with China over a disputed border,” he said.
India and Russia have set a target of up to $ 30 billion in bilateral trade by the end of 2025. India is also dependent on Russian oil and gas.
In 2021, it imported 1.8 million tons of thermal coal from Russia, which is about 0.2% of Russia’s natural gas exports. The state gas body India Limited has signed a 20-year contract with Russia’s Gazprom for the supply of 2.5 million tons of liquefied natural gas per year, which began in 2018, according to Indian media.
Modi and Putin met last year to discuss defense and trade relations, and signed an agreement to expand military technology cooperation for the next decade.
India has acquired Russian S-400 missile systems, which he considers critical in countering China, could also become a stimulus in Indo-American relations. The S-400 is a sophisticated air defense system that is expected to give India strategic deterrence against rivals China and Pakistan.
New Delhi is seeking support from Washington and its allies in confronting China, which is the common ground for the Indo-Pacific Security Alliance, known as the “Four,” which also includes Australia and Japan.
India is also diversifying its arms purchases with American equipment. During Donald Trump’s presidency, the United States and India concluded defense deals worth more than $ 3 billion. Bilateral defense trade increased from almost zero in 2008 to $ 15 billion in 2019.
As the Ukrainian crisis deepens, India’s real challenge is how it is governed by international sanctions against Russia.
The missile system agreement with Moscow has put India at risk of US sanctions after Washington asked its partners to stay away from Russian military equipment.
“The problem for India has just begun. There is an urgent need to break free from dependence on Russian weapons, ”Raja Mohan said.
Nur Ahmed Baba, a political scientist, said Western countries would be unhappy with India, but they probably could not afford to completely alienate New Delhi.
“After all, countries balance principles with real politics and diplomacy,” he said. “It’s not only India’s advantage to be with the West, but they also need India.”
Associated Press video journalist Shonal Gangouli contributed to this report.
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