Notwithstanding “unwarranted and uncalled for criticism” from certain quarters, Bharat has stuck to its guns on the Ukraine crisis. By strongly defending Bharat’s stand, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has made it clear that Bharat’s foreign policy is determined by its national interests and that it won’t make any departure from its stated positions vis-à-vis Russia. It would continue to engage with Moscow for supplies of crude oil and defence equipment. Bharat cannot afford to let go of the opportunities offered by Russia at this juncture, as the conflict would definitely have a huge impact on oil prices much to our disadvantage, given the fact that we are one of the largest energy importers. Higher crude prices may wreak havoc on our economy. As crude becomes dearer, so do fertilisers. This will have direct consequences on the livelihoods of about 70 per cent of our population. Moreover, when China has locked horns with Bharat in LAC, we cannot afford to burn our bridges with the Russians. All these years, Bharat could not find a more reliable partner other than Moscow.
Ironically, some of the Western nations, which have been lecturing Bharat on international propriety and rule of law, have themselves been importing huge quantities of Russian oil, despite the sword of US sanctions hanging over their heads.
Even as Bharat continues to maintain close engagement, it came down heavily on Russia on the issue of violation of the UN Charter. As Jaishankar said, if at all Bharat has chosen a side, ‘it is the side of peace’. Although at present Bharat is seen as a close ally of Russia, there is no guarantee that it would remain so for eternity. The outcome of the Ukraine-Russia conflict will determine the future course of Indo-Russian ties.
So far, Bharat has played its cards well. Although Bharat’s independent foreign policy position has many takers, it has upset the US and its allies. However, Bharat continues to be a major trading and strategic partner to the US. Better ties with the US is important for Bharat’s economy.
Meanwhile, the Ukraine-Russia conflict has thrown open several opportunities for Bharat along with challenges. Chinese President Xi Jingpin’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has hit a roadblock. A major chunk of the project which would link China with European markets passes through Russia. The main aim of BRI has been to foist China at the centre of global trade and politics. Through this project, China has managed to entrap many countries, including Sri Lanka, in deep debts. At the root of financial meltdown in Sri Lanka and Pakistan is Chinese loans, as both these countries have taken huge loans from China. Chinese interventions in African countries have also led to several unsavoury events.
The turn of events in geo politics and US sanctions have rendered the BRI project unviable. In this context, Bharat can pitch in with infrastructure projects in association with the US. Bharat’s support to Sri Lanka to tide over the severe economic crisis and strengthening of engagement with Nepal have been well appreciated.
Although uncouth statements by US Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh had ruffled Indian feathers, these won’t have an adverse impact on the relations which are moving fast without any hindrance. The upcoming 2+2 Indo-US dialogue would reaffirm the importance of the comprehensive and global strategic partnership between the two countries. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will hold the fourth edition of the dialogue with US Defence Secretary Llyod Austin and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on April 11 in Washington. These talks will have a far-reaching impact on the geo-politics.