European crisis testing India’s foreign policy : The Tribune India


Abhijit Bhattacharyya


Commentator and author

New Delhi owes its neutrality to its friendship with Russia and Ukraine. Despite this, India is constantly pushed to play partisans in a conflict where the two belligerents, until 1991, constituted a single country. It is certainly to Delhi’s credit for resisting pressure to toe the UN’s one-way line. Naturally, Indian neutrality represents the national interest which cannot be served by playing partisanship. To remain unaligned in the fratricidal quarrel of Europe is the only sane and pragmatic course.

For India, isn’t this the repeated formula of history, the traditional and familiar way of dealing with and dominating the “Third World”? Mutually, the Europeans had fought savagely in European lands and beyond for hundreds of years. And a trend began with the First and Second World Wars of the 20th century, drawing in surplus manpower as soldiers from non-belligerent, non-European states of the East to replenish the exhausted combatants of the West.

At the diplomatic table too, the stronger wanted the economically weaker to follow first. In this tireless effort, even in February-March 2022, a distant India is being pushed, pressed and persuaded, from everywhere, with a “behave” advice: do not be neutral; you should take someone’s side; advocate for the Western-led camp and shun the holier-than-you, unaligned diplomacy of former prime ministers; why don’t you condemn Moscow in the UN General Assembly and Security Council? Why don’t you defend a weak Ukraine? Will you be on the right side of history?

The United States has advised India to distance itself from Russia. UK Trade Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said her government was “very disappointed with India”. Visiting Japan, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida urged his host in New Delhi to take a tougher line and act on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A British MP has urged Prime Minister Johnson to suspend aid to India due to its abstention in the UN Security Council during the vote on Ukraine. It’s a thundering refrain for “not following” the rules.

However, there are also some soothing words: Australian Prime Minister Morrison’s “understanding of India’s position on the Ukraine crisis”. US President Biden also had his doubts: India’s response to the war in Ukraine is “somewhat fragile” and an exception among Western allies.

Biden, however, belatedly pressed the right button of India’s pragmatism and restraint. Yes, India has been “unstable” for a long time and “unstable” still today. Not without reason though. For India, it’s usually pressure cooker time. Turn the voluminous documents and pages of history of protracted and relentless gunboat diplomacy from the West (Britain) to the East (Beijing) for an answer.

India is facing problems on many fronts, the main one coming from China, not Russia. Over the past seven decades, Chinese aggression has been unrelenting. Invasion, land grabbing, trade imbalance, border blackmail and the latest being the mockery of Foreign Minister Wang Yi behind the Pakistani OIC shield. The West must realize that India cannot run away from the reality of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) aggression that the West is now aware of, having cultivated it for three decades. Therefore, India cannot be said to be either in Washington’s or Moscow’s camp. A non-aligned India must have mutual neutrality and cordiality with both, mainly due to the threat of the CCP and an unprovoked invasion. If India is friendly with both Ukraine and Russia, it can also be replicated with Moscow and the US-led Quad in the Indo-Pacific. The West must realize the reality.

Historically, India has borne ample witness to the sugar-coated language of European merchants who petitioned the Delhi Durbar in the 17th century, and the fire and fury that followed armed Anglo-French military fighting their Seven Years’ War. of European origin (1756-1763) on Indian soil. This long, tortuous and violent conquest of 65% of Indian lands and the crushing of all local rulers occurred with the widespread help of local recruits/soldiers, fortune seekers and hereditary soil traders.

Unfortunately, the West is still used to basking in the “glorious past” of inglorious performance. Above all, on India, he conveniently forgets or selectively ignores the truth. Therefore, it is time to recall India’s subjugation for centuries by the West – all the rulers came from west of India’s Makran coast.

So can the West really align the national interest of India’s 1.37 billion people with that of Europe’s 770 million people in local conflict? The entire one billion people of the Americas is less than that of India.

Clearly, India’s needs are uninterrupted progress on at least six fronts – food, finance, factory, fuel, firepower and foreign brotherhood. As is known, with the exception of two hostile neighbors, China and Pakistan, India’s cordiality with others is steady and constant. Nevertheless, these two together keep Delhi perpetually unstable and rocky. Therefore, India’s primary focus is a Chinese-led threat, not a Russian-led one. It makes no sense to open another distant front in a field of fire, to take a partisan position, to please one and incur the wrath and fury of the other.

Indeed, India is “shaky” because of the soft window of “globalization”, designed and created for the polar position of the West. Although not 100% integrated, the intertwining of financial, banking, commercial, economic and security systems has limited New Delhi’s diplomatic and domestic choices in the face of crises like that on the European continent. Too much is at stake and it is too difficult to extricate oneself from the diplomatic spider’s web woven around the UN, which seems to be losing its luster and its ability to appear fair, except in the case of the weakest nations. .

The war in a poverty-stricken Afghanistan was waged by 42 invading armies under the aegis of the UN, which however was conspicuous by its absence in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen despite enormous human tragedy and massacres? Is the UN becoming malleable and becoming a point of service for the rich and powerful, like the judiciary of a few Third World countries, which supposedly serves the big and powerful, but remains blissfully unaware, ignorant and insensitive, indifferent to the petitions of people living in misery?

So let’s take a “somewhat tottering” India seriously, and don’t want to give up its neutrality vis-à-vis Europe. Let’s not accredit the English Western daily which ridicules Delhi’s diplomacy: “India undermines efforts to isolate Russia” or “India explores ruble-ruble” pact to “bypass sanctions”. Why should India try to “isolate” Russia, a “friend in need”, especially when others ignore a needy India? Why the hell do we think that India will not take care of the welfare, safety, security and economy of its people? You have to be real. Instead of ignoring or denigrating the Chinese threat to India, respect Delhi’s exemplary sovereignty and neutrality. Respect for sovereignty cannot be a one-way traffic towards eternity and the perpetual privilege of the princes of antiquity.

Mary I. Bruner