The War in Ukraine: India
Impact of the War in Ukraine: An Indian Perspective
The Indian response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine was determined by domestic economic considerations and higher strategic priorities, specifically its concerns about a more assertive and powerful China. India carefully maintained its declining relationship with Russia and took a neutral position regarding the Ukraine conflict, as the primary strategic benefits of its relationship with Russia were to keep Moscow neutral when New Delhi and Beijing clashed and an inexpensive military supply chain. India took a realpolitik position, with hard-nosed reasons to maintain relations with Russia but none when it came to being involved in a far-off regional conflict.
The war in Ukraine presented several diplomatic and economic challenges for India. Diplomatically, India required the US, its primary partner in a larger strategic response to China, to accept its neutrality, which proved easy as Washington took the view that India's strategic importance to the Quad and its Indo-Pacific strategy was paramount. The US applied no pressure on the Narendra Modi government to change its Ukraine position. India was unconcerned about European criticism given its self-serving stance on Chinese aggression.
Economically, the war not only sharply reduced India's economic growth prospects but also triggered an inflationary crisis that became New Delhi's primary policy focus between February and October. As food and fuel were the main inflation drivers, India began buying discounted Russian oil and fertilizer to mitigate the social and economic damages.
By spring, India began thinking of ways to help bring the war to a close and privately and later publicly pressed Russia to consider negotiations with Ukraine, in coordination with the West.
The geopolitical implications of the war for India remain in flux. To begin with, India seeks to determine the extent to which Russia has become dependent on China following its isolation from the West. Second, the war seems to have reassured India that the US is prepared to take a geopolitical view of their relationship and overlook inevitable differences in lesser policy areas. Third, India will observe whether Germany and other European nations rebuild their military capabilities and begin treating China as a strategic threat because of the Ukraine war. If Europe does both, India will have cause to believe security and defence relations with Europe are worth investing in; at present, it maintains defence relations only with France. Finally, India will, in the short term, pull back from its aggressive net zero climate plans (given the drop in its growth rates) and its increased coal consumption caused by the spike in oil and gas prices.
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The Indian response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine was determined by domestic economic considerations and higher strategic priorities, specifically its concerns about a more assertive and powerful China.