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With China trying to bail out Russia, challenges and opportunities for India

Source : India Today

With China trying to bail out Russia, challenges and opportunities for India
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About a week after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said his Ukraine invasion was progressing as planned, reports suggest his government has reached out to China for help. This exposes Russia, which has remained a super-power for about a hundred years, including the Soviet era, as it turns to rising super-power of the world, China.

The Chinese angle in Russia-Ukraine war or Putin-West conflict throws up certain challenges and also presents some opportunities to India.

THE CHINA POST

This move has the potential to force a realignment of forces involved in Russia-Ukraine war. It is reflected in the US’s warning to China of serious consequences if it steps into the war in East Europe to reinforce Russia.

The move is, however, also an admission of the inability of Russia to dominate ‘weak’ Ukraine that has received active aid from the West.

China’s entry in the Russia-Ukraine war may tip the scale decisively in favour of Putin, both domestically and internationally. This would widen the ambit of the war something that the US and Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Europe have been assiduously trying to avoid. It may force Nato countries take a direct role in Ukraine to stave off Russia aided China.

Sensing bigger trouble with China’s participation, US President Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Jake Sullivan warned China’s foreign policy advisor Yang Jiechi in a face-to-face meeting that they held in Rome, Italy.

Such warnings are unusual in international diplomacy. But the seven-hour meeting on Monday between Sullivan and Yang was a little different. On Tuesday, the US military said Russia would exhaust its ammunition to continue its invasion of Ukraine. China, thus, becomes crucial for both Russia and the US-Europe coalition.

This is where India becomes the next focus of the West.

CHALLENGES FOR INDIA

Neutrality in international conflicts has served India well from the days of first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to incumbent Narendra Modi. However, this neutrality has not been neutral it was tilted towards Soviet Russia in pre-liberalisation era and closer to the American bloc thereafter.

India’s recent positioning of neutrality at the United Nations meetings over the Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought relief in the Russian camp but stretched discomfort on the West side.

Russia has offered India to purchase its oil at a cheaper rate while the West has exhorted India to speak from the parapet of the democratic West. The West is vehement in putting pressure on India to not support the aggressor backed by a communist authoritarian regime, not even through abstention during a vote in the UN.

Gradually, the West’s ‘you are either with us or against us’ policy is being pushed to bring countries like India. Some action has been seen against Bangladesh for staying neutral in the Russia-Ukraine war in Europe cancellation of Covid-19 vaccine doses to the country.

Experts have warned India that despite its nuanced position at the UN in the Russia-Ukraine war, which essentially is an expansion conflict between Putin and Nato in Europe, it is facing a huge risk.

For example, if Russian invasion of Ukraine continues for long, a consequent rise in oil prices might disrupt India’s economic recovery severely. India imports more than 80 per cent of its oil requirements. Buying cheaper oil from Russia ignoring the West’s sanctions may result in some punitive action against India.

India depends hugely on the Russian weapons and military equipment to keep its forces prepared against two hostile neighbours. If Russia is forced to seek Chinese help to replenish its military essentials within three weeks of its high-stakes war, India is already in a placed precarious situation.

Keeping the West in good stead then is prudent for India. But this requires condemning Russia. A Catch-22 situation for the Indian government.

To maintain a neutral portfolio in a highly polarised world may end in the loss of both the worlds for India, experts have warned. However, this is an unlikely result for a country and economy of the size as India’s in such an intricately globalised world.

Unlike Bangladesh, India is too big to punish. And, unlike China, India is a bigger consuming market than a net supplier exploring markets elsewhere. This is where India’s neutrality presents it opportunities.

OPPORTUNITY IN CRISIS

India has not supported Russia if it did not condemn Putin for invading Ukraine, alarming the West. Beyond the ethics and morality of humanity, India has followed the policy of reciprocal diplomacy.

The West has not been an automatic India-backer when China invaded its territories, captured its land or changed the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and when Pakistan launched wars and proxy war through terrorism, and continued refusing to vacate occupied territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh despite the UN resolution declaring that the merger of princely state to India was legal and valid.

The West did not automatically shared India’s concerns over infiltration of terrorists and execution of terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India in a Pakistan-sponsored design. Even terrorists who India sought to be sanctioned were blocked by China and the West did not side with India.

The West, however, woke up to the threat of terrorism only after 9/11 attacks on the US and sought India’s support both in its war on terror and subsequent reconstruction of ravaged territories in Afghanistan and elsewhere. India’s stand is nuanced and reciprocal.

It is this neutral position of India that makes it a potential mediator between Russia and the West to end the war in Ukraine. India has repeatedly called for ceasefire and to find peace through talks. PM Modi asked both Putin and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his telephonic conversations to hold direct talks to find a solution.

There is more. If China participates in the Russia-Ukraine war to bail out Putin, the US and other Nato countries are likely to retaliate. This would not only prolong the war but also make it truly multi-dimensional. War often ends up in weakening the participants. A weakened China is stronger India given the current equation of the two Asian giants.

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