Opinion: What happens to India if Russia invades Ukraine

Russia-Ukraine Tensions: India has always been a traditional Russian ally. However, New Delhi's tilt over the last few years towards the United States has irked Moscow, as per the experts.

Opinion: What happens to India if Russia invades Ukraine
Joe Biden (left), Narendra Modi (center) and Vladimir Putin (right) (file image)

New Delhi | Aalok Sensharma: The United States of America (USA) on Wednesday said it hopes that India - a traditional Russian ally - would stand by its side if the Kremlin invades Ukraine, which the Biden administration believes is "inevitable".

Speaking to reporters, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said the tensions between Ukraine and Russia were also discussed during the recently concluded Quad meeting in Melbourne.

The Quad meeting was attended by External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr S Jaishankar, along with foreign ministers from Australia, Japan and the US.

During the meeting, the four leaders stressed that a diplomatic and peaceful resolution needs to be found out for the Ukraine crisis, Price said.

"One of the core tenants of the Quad is to reinforce the rules-based international order. And that is a rules-based order that applies equally in the Indo-Pacific as it does in Europe, as it does anywhere else. We know that our Indian partners are committed to that rules-based international order. There are any number of tenets in that order. One of them is that borders cannot be redrawn by force," Price said.

"That, large countries cannot bully small countries. That only the people of a particular country can be in a position to choose their foreign policy, their partnerships, their alliances, their associations. Those are principles that apply equally in the Indo-Pacific as they do in Europe," he noted.

India has been a traditional Russian ally and the two nations share a strong diplomatic relationship. Moscow has always supported New Delhi on most of the international platforms, including the Jammu and Kashmir issue at the United Nations (UN).

However, India's tilt towards the US has irked Russia a bit, believe experts. India, since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, has signed multiple trades and defence agreements with the US, making it evident that New Delhi is shifting towards Washington.

However, in October 2018, India signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems, despite a direct warning from the Trump administration. In 2019, India made the first tranche of payment of around USD 800 million to Russia.

Last year in December, Russian President Vladimir Putin also visited India and met PM Modi. Following the meeting, the Indian Prime Minister said that India-Russia ties are stronger than ever.

"You (Putin) should be credited for the strategic partnership between our countries for the 3 decades," PM Modi said.

Meanwhile, Putin said Russia considers India 'a great power' and a 'time-tested' friend, adding that the relationship between the two nations is growing. He further said he is "happy to travel to India".

"Currently mutual investments stand at about 38 million with a bit more investment coming from the Russian side. We cooperate greatly in military and technical sphere like no other country. We develop high technologies together as well as produce in India," he said.

Before Putin's meeting, India and Russia also held the first-ever 2+2 ministerial-level dialogues between the two countries and signed multiple agreements. The 2+2 ministerial-level dialogues, experts said, was an act to balance things between Russia and the US.

So what happens if Russia invades Ukraine?

If Russia invades Ukraine, it would become difficult for India to balance things between Washington and Russia. India has always opposed China's aggressive stance in the Indo-Pacific and Russia's approach in Ukraine could be termed somewhat similar.

It should be noted that India wants Russia by its side on international platforms which also includes China and its statement that it is "closely monitoring the developments on Ukraine" is a delicate balancing act between Moscow and Washington.

New Delhi's assurance of "monitoring" and call for a peaceful resolution has kept its balance in realistic check.

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