Chandler Myers is an officer in the U.S. Air Force. He holds a BS in English from the Air Force Academy and a MA in international relations with a focus in cyber diplomacy from Norwich University. Chandler contributes to WAR ROOM, the U.S. Army’s online national security journal. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.
Title: Assessing the Benefits of India’s Frustrating Pragmatic Energy
Date Originally Written: May 3, 2022.
Date Originally Published: May 9, 2022.
Author and / or Article Point of View: The author believes that India’s position on the Russian invasion has proven that it can champion international institutions and norms while being ferociously aware of its limitations.
Summary: India choosing to fully condemn or support the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations would have negative consequences. India needs Russian military equipment. At the same time, India’s geography requires continual dialogue with China to resolve territorial disputes. With chilling precision, India’s unmistakable neutral position suits their complex, globally-integrated interest.
Text: Efforts to keep a sufferable neutral status as Moscow encourages ever-more horrific atrocities in Ukraine has raised important Western concerns on New Delhi’s position. India has, for good reason, abstained from every resolution at the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly on this matter. Though this decision may look different with time, one can argue that New Dehli’s related position is improving its global status. India’s Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Damodardas Modi, recently speaking in Berlin, communicated: “we believe that no party can emerge victorious in this war.” He is right. But, that does not mean India cannot profit from Russia’s violence towards Ukraine. The Germany-India bilateral discussions on May 2, 2022, ended in documented agreements that supplement both country’s on-going sustainable development. The agreements cover wide ranging technical cooperation and German financial assistance in areas related to clean energy, sustainable urban development, climate adaptations, research and development, environmental protections, and so on. Add to that, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also invited PM Modi, for what will be India’s fourth annual consecutive appearance, as a guest to the G-7 summit in June.
On the opposite end, India is likely enjoying discounted Russian crude oil amidst ordinary buyers closing their ports due to Moscow’s war. According to India’s Ministry of Commerce, in 2021 Russian imported oil only made up 2% of India’s total imports. This 2% is an obvious small share compared to a recent report by Kpler, a commodities research company. Captured in a British Broadcasting Corporation article, Kpler reported a higher figure of contracted purchased quantity of Russian oil from India in months spanning March through June (of 2022) than all of 2021. From that data, one can opine that India is having less trouble than the U.S., United Kingdom (UK) , and European Union (EU), if any at all, contending with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. India will not plagiarize U.S., UK, and EU sanction decisions toward Russia as its decision lays elsewhere.
Indian-Russo ties are well documented, most of which focus on defense. Stimson Center analysts estimated 85 percent of India’s military equipment is of Russian or Soviet origin. Other estimates are figured as low as 45 percent. Knowing this, India’s territorial disputes with Pakistan and China, who are allies of Russia, have intensified India’s views of its defense inventory. As recent as March 10, 2022, Pakistan claimed that a surface-to-surface missile shot from India into its Punjab province. Additionally, Chinese and Indian counter claims over parts of the Kashmir region remain unchanged. Even with unresolved storied challenges, China and Russia have found a nation expected to be the most populous by 2030 seemingly on its side and they intend to take advantage.
Before Russia’s February 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine, the world saw numerous Western diplomats and heads of state meet with Kremlin leadership in hopes to reverse Moscow’s hardening language and military buildup. In Ukraine, the same and different leaders continue to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to offer symbolic and material support. As the war lengthens, similar leaders from the West have met with counterparts in India to deepen cooperation. Before Modi’s trip to European countries that include Germany, Denmark, and France in May 2022, he met with European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, in April. The specific details of the two-day meeting have yet to be uncovered, however, both parties signaled strengthening economic and technology cooperation with the creation of a new Trade and Technology Council. India’s pragmatic stance is also seeing benefits from deeper security cooperation between it and the United Kingdom.
New Dehli’s position has also attracted Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi. In a meeting between him and his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Wang sought a cooling relationship between the two countries. Quoted in a Reuters article, Wang explained, “The two sides should … put the differences on the boundary issue in an appropriate position in bilateral relations, and adhere to the correct development direction of bilateral relations.”
The diplomatic atmosphere is not confined to governments meeting with one another either. The Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank based in the U.S., has decided to use this opportunity to launch a new series, “India’s Opportunities in the 2020s.” It is without question that—for now—interest in India is finding enlarged footing by all sides.
Prime Minister Modi’s ethical scorecard has been declining long before Russia’s recent invasion. India voting at the United Nations to condemn or show full support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine would likely result in serious consequences for India. Rather than choose between the stated options, Modi has found, with exceptional clarity, the sweet spot. As frustrating it is for the United States, China wants to normalize relations with India. And in the same vein, Western countries want to deepen cooperation in areas like security, clean energy, and technology as Russian oil is on the cheap. Even with domestic troubles abound, Modi has cushioned criticism from abroad and elevated India’s attractiveness onto the world stage.
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