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India’s Ukraine policy: Coping with dangers ahead if US, allies step up pressure?

By Bharat Dogra* 

The attention of the world is focused on Ukraine where a very serious crisis exists. This has understandably become the most serious concern of the foreign policy of all leading countries including India. 
It is no exaggeration to say that India’s foreign policy stalwarts are faced with one of the most complex and difficult situations. In such a situation it will be helpful if the Government makes a bigger effort to try to create a broad consensus on India’s Ukraine policy and the opposition responds favorably.
Let us look at the basic facts of the situation. Russia clearly made a mistake by invading Ukraine as invasions and wars should be treated more and more as outdated in a world faced by a serious survival crisis. With the kind of weapons that are used in modern wars, it takes very little for thousands to die and millions to be displaced within a few days.
Having said that the invasion was wrong, however, one must hasten to add that Russia has many legitimate grievances and its genuine security concerns as well as earlier assurances relating to these have been badly violated by the USA and NATO. Genuine concerns of Russia and their alarming neglect by the USA and NATO also have to be given due consideration in any balanced policy on Ukraine.
This would be true for the Ukraine policy and of any country but India has some additional concerns to take into account. Firstly, Russia has extended firm support to India in many difficult times. Its support was most invaluable during the 1971 crisis situation. 
The Pakistani army and its collaborators had been committing genocide in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), and the use of this word to describe the alarming situation had been approved by the chief USA Representative in Dacca.
Several hundred thousand had been killed, several million had been displaced. India was planning to send its armed forces to stop this genocide and assist in the liberation of Bangladesh, but this faced extreme and irrational opposition from the Nixon-Kissinger duo who regarded Yahya Khan the Pakistani President as their great friend who could not be annoyed.
In these circumstances it was the great support of the USSR which played a very crucial role in the ability of India to overcome US hostility as well as potential of Chinese threat to achieve a truly overwhelming victory over Pakistan, ensuring the end of genocide and the liberation of Bangladesh.
In addition over the years India has developed important security and trade links with Russia, not to mention cultural and other close people to people contacts, which must be protected.
Therefore, while the invasion was not correct and some of Putin’s statements were also irresponsible, nevertheless India has adopted basically a correct position by refusing to condemn Russia at the United Nations, abstaining instead at the time of crucial voting.
The ability of Indian government to withstand US pressures so far persists, it has won praise from an unexpected place, China
While the government and the foreign minister deserve credit for this policy in the middle of increasing pressure from the USA and its allies, problems can increase if the USA and its allies increase their pressures further on India, thereby harming India’s national interests at the level of the economy and security. 
This is why it is important to try to establish a broader consensus on India’s Ukraine policy. Any hasty criticism of this policy without understanding the tremendous pressures within which our diplomats are functioning at the moment would not be considered a sign of maturity.
The ability of the Indian government to withstand US pressures so far and persist with an independent foreign policy has won praise from an unexpected place -- China. If these lead to further openings and a new situation in which India can settle its border and other differences with China in friendly conditions this would be a great breakthrough.
These two countries have simply too much to gain from mutual cooperation but this tremendous potential has just not been realized. China has been more to blame for this sad situation and if it takes a sincere initiative now to make a new beginning this should be widely welcomed as long as there are sure signs of sincerity.
Overall India has everything to gain and nothing to lose from emerging again as a leader of the policy and movement of new-alignment at world level. Its further efforts should be in this direction.
---
*Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now; recent books include “Planet in Peril” and “Protecting Earth for Children”

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