The Government of India's standpoint to 'abstain' at the UNSC stems from the fact and is with merits that – India has been in touch with all sides, urging parties (read Russia and the US chiefly) to return to the negotiating table.
New Delhi: History has labelled a failed revolution as rebellion. Whether this applies to the story of the Russian' invasion' of Ukraine or not would be best answered in times to come. Contemporary analysts and future historians would differ on the origin of the Ukraine crisis.
"The situation in Ukraine is the result of a complex chain of circumstances over the last thirty years. Most countries, such as India and France, which are very active, are seeking a diplomatic solution," said India's suave diplomat-turned-foreign minister Dr S Jaishankar around Feb 22-23, shortly before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troop movement into Ukraine. He also said in an interview to a French newspaper 'Le Figaro' during his Paris visit that: "The real question is: are you mobilised to find a good solution or are you content with posturing?"
Jaishankar was asked why India did not condemn Russian troops' concentration on the Ukrainian borders. Now the world is beyond that stage. Even in subsequent deliberations, India treaded an independent path. Moscow has officially registered its appreciation of New Delhi's standpoint.
India certainly stands between two sides – the US and Russia. The US is a friend and a democratic partner in the Quad, whose alliance it cares to counter China. To New Delhi, irrespective of political affiliation, Russia is not only an old friend but a foremost defence supplier.
Indo-Russia ties are amongst the steadiest of the major relationships in the world after the Second World War. In a more recent sense, Russia is a crucial partner for India in the regional scene, especially in the context of RIC and BRICS multi-nation fora and what has happened in and around Afghanistan since August 2021.
The conflict over Ukraine is perhaps derived from post-Soviet politics, the expansion of NATO, the dynamics between Russia and Europe, and Russia and the West broadly. Now the world is staring at the biggest security threat to Europe since 1945.
The US and most western countries are anguished at Moscow and do not mind confrontational statements. India has nuanced its statements carefully using words like "de-escalation," and "diplomatic dialogue".
India has avoided taking names or calling out Russia. "Dialogue is the only answer to settle differences and disputes," New Delhi has been insisting lately.
The Government of India's standpoint now to 'abstain' at the UNSC stems from the fact, and is with merits that – India has been in touch with all sides, urging parties (read Russia and the US chiefly) to return to the negotiating table.
"By abstaining, India retained the option of reaching out to relevant sides in an effort to bridge the gap and find the middle ground with an aim to foster dialogue and diplomacy," is one explanation from an MEA source.
India certainly wants to maintain a friendship with its partners in the Quad. It needs allies like France and, of course, the US, but it also needs Russia's friendship.
The decision to stick to the India-Russia military deal has remained on track on the backdrop of the new US administration under Joe Biden deciding to continue with the Donald Trump-era policy of imposing Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on Russia or any other country that would buy armaments from some listed countries.
But if a case is made that India should have been with the US and the other 'democracies' as against Putin's 'rogue regime', it is also a fact even the reverse story cannot be ignored. For obvious reasons, these democracies, especially Washington, also need India.
When it comes to argument, New Delhi's foreign policy engine room can explain it properly and put up a case on why the western world has been so meek against Putin for years now.
Putin's troublemaking geopolitics did not start with Ukraine. There was a case about Alexander Litvinenko. Russia also had invaded Georgia, abetted Syrian war crimes, annexed Crimea and even allegedly subverted America's elections. There was Libya, and simply put, the western politicians and businesses have known for years what kind of man Putin is.
"Yet many pretended otherwise, or looked away, or took his money, as have far-right parties in France and Italy. They pretended he was normal," points out Simon Tisdall, a foreign affairs commentator and 'US editor' for 'The Guardian' newspaper.
So, all these concerns about democracy cannot suddenly happen today. On the contrary, this global crisis has provided a neo-opportunity to Indian diplomacy to shape a new road map for itself – where it will highlight its own vision and not side either democracy of the American school or the strong and steady leadership of Russia.
In the words of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, India has to play a role in the "importance of a strong collective response to Russian aggression".
"Russia's attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity is a clear violation of the rules-based international order," he has tried to woo New Delhi. US President Joe Biden has said the US is in consultation with India over New Delhi's stance on the Ukraine issue.
According to French President Emmanuel Macron, the Ukraine crisis is a turning point in European history, so India should also use the window of opportunity to make it at least a semi-turning point in Asian history. China need not matter so much as of now.