Updated: January 29, 2022 4:44:59 am
IN ITS first statement on the ongoing crisis between Russia and the West led by the US over Ukraine, India on Friday broke its silence and called for a “peaceful resolution” of the situation through “sustained diplomatic efforts” for “long-term peace and stability” in the region and beyond.
The Indian government’s position was articulated by Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Arindam Bagchi at the weekly briefing on Friday.
In response to questions, the MEA spokesperson said, “We have been closely following the developments relating to Ukraine, including the ongoing high-level discussions between Russia and the US. Our Embassy in Kyiv is also monitoring local developments. We call for a peaceful resolution of the situation through sustained diplomatic efforts for long-term peace and stability in the region and beyond.”
More than a week ago, on January 19, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman called up Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and the two discussed “Russia’s concerning military build-up on Ukraine’s borders”. However, New Delhi, which did not issue an official statement on the matter, choosing to closely monitor the developments before breaking its silence on Friday.
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With key strategic partners on both sides, India cannot afford any hasty moves hurting its vital stakes. Sources said while there is concern about Russia’s “muscle-flexing” and external intervention in national matters, New Delhi does not want to jeopardise the close military ties with Moscow.
Almost 60 per cent of India’s military supplies are Russian manufactured, which means it cannot afford to alienate Moscow, particularly at a time when Indian and Chinese troops continue to be in a stand-off on the eastern border.
At the same time, the US and Europe, which are pushing back against Russia over Ukraine, are both important partners from India’s strategic calculus. Many American platforms have been used for reconnaissance and surveillance along the India-China border. Winter clothing for 50,000 troops has been sourced from these western strategic partners.
India is also conscious that the hostility between the West and Russia, with talks of sanctions being considered, is likely to push Moscow in the direction of Beijing, hence strengthening the Chinese.
Another concern for Delhi is the small Indian community in Ukraine, comprising mostly students in medical colleges. The Indian Embassy in Kyiv has started collating information on the students as part of preparations for any hostilities. According to government estimates, 18,000 Indian students were in Ukraine in 2020, but the numbers may have dipped since due to Covid and classes moving online at many places.
Sources in the strategic establishment recall that when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and the West lined up against President Vladimir Putin, India had expressed “concern” but also qualified it by talking of “legitimate Russian interests”. The view was articulated at the time, under the UPA government, by then NSA Shiv Shankar Menon. In fact, Putin had thanked India for the “restrained and objective” stand, and called up PM Manmohan Singh to express gratitude.
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