The Russian Invasion of Ukraine: How India Skates on thin ice with its “Neutrality”


As Ukraine is under attack from all sides and its troops are battling hard to secure their state from the Russian offensive, India faces a precarious situation. With the tensions flaring up every single hour, the US and NATO have strongly condemned Russia and have levied tough sanctions on the state. India’s peace philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is a mere ideology and questionable stance in this situation as it is being criticised as a fence-sitter by the West. It has attempted to remain “neutral” in the face of this world crisis and has kept to the side-lines rather than condemning Moscow for its belligerent actions. India’s strategic silence on the issue that is staring at the face of the world is bound to have long-term consequences for the largest democracy as this approach is unsustainable and largely problematic.

New Delhi is in a diplomatic predicament due to its increasing closeness with the West as well as its long-standing strategic ties with Moscow which has been, in the past, referred to as a “special and privileged strategic partnership.” India’s dispassionate posture has earned ire from analysts worldwide as it is not on the same page as US that has been confrontational in its approach; the former has maintained a steady silence on the issue by not calling out Russia for its imprudent actions or laying emphasis on Ukraine’s sovereignty.

As a case in the point, on January 31, New Delhi joined Gabon and Kenya and abstained from voting in the UNSC to discuss the Russian situation in Ukraine as a threat to international peace and security. In the Quad meeting of foreign ministers in February 2022 in Melbourne, the Russia-Ukraine crisis could not make a cut in the joint statement due to New Delhi’s reservations on the issue unlike the U.S., Japan, and Australia, who were strongly averse to Moscow’s massing of troops along its Ukrainian border.  India is adopting a soft approach towards Russia due to its huge military dependence on the latter and its statements are largely conciliatory and dotted with words like “constructive diplomacy”. In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro on Monday, Jaishankar strategically noted that the state of affairs in Ukraine was the result of a “complex chain of circumstances” that have emerged over the past 30 years.

While India might be treading “cautiously” at the moment, its approach is going to have deeper negative connotations in the time to come, as its relations vis-à-vis the US, EU, Ukraine are going to get deeply strained. Moreover, it might find itself friendless in a hostile environment when it faces a pugnacious China trying to spread its tentacles over the Indian territory and the South Asian region with the Sino-Pakistan axis being a constant issue looming in background. While India is a member of the Russia and China dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and of BRICS, the post-COVID world scenario is extremely polarised and now, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine looming large and dominating the International political economy, Russia is also being seen to develop closer ties with the Dragon. What India needs at this point of time is not a neutral stance, rather it needs to safeguard its interests in the long term and warrant intrepid, corrective action and a righteous, moral approach. Taking a similar approach as in case of the Russian annexation of Crimea might be used against New Delhi as an endorsement of its actions by Moscow. The ‘silent endorsement’ of Russia’s invasion might deleteriously affect the harmonised approach that India seeks with the like-minded members of the Quad in tackling China’s advances, thus, threatening the security of the South Asian region.

While realpolitik experts point out that “power triumphs principles”, the important thing here, for India is to adopt a principled approach in sync with the International law obligations and its democratic and constitutional values. India has been an advocate of sovereignty and territorial integrity and thus, the need of the hour is that New Delhi takes a articulate position and stands for Ukraine’s sovereignty and lucidly raises its voice against Russia’s unwarranted hegemonic advances against Ukraine as New Delhi’s “balanced posturing” would do it more harm than good. 

Vedika Rekhi
Vedika Rekhi
The author is a graduate in History from Miranda House, University of Delhi and currently pursuing Masters in Politics and International Relations, Pondicherry University.