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Saturday, February 17, 2024

Ukraine-Russia Crisis: A bumpy path ahead for India

If Moscow invades Ukraine, there will be a looming threat of a new cold war. States will have to choose again between the Russian and the American camp. India, the strategic partner of the US and a long-lasting arms and trade partner of Russia, will have to face the paramount issue of choosing only one among these two.

Russia is building up its forces along the Ukrainian border. According to some recent reports Kremlin has already deployed over 100,000 soldiers, hundreds of tanks, and heavy artillery. High-stakes diplomatic talks are underway, yet many are turning out to be a grave disappointment.

People are nervous as provocation from any side would trigger a serious conflict. The worsening of the crisis is preoccupying Indian policymakers as the long-lasted multilateralism approach might not continue for long.

Read more: Understanding the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in the prism of history

Understanding the Ukrainian crises

Ukraine became part of the USSR when Lenin led the Russian revolution in 1922, and the mutual affair continued till 1991. Russia has always had a parochial view of Ukraine as it sees Ukraine as a little brother who cannot be left alone. When President Viktor Yanukovych was about to sign a political and economic deal with the EU in 2013, Putin offered Ukraine a $15 billion bailout package along with a subsidized gas package.

Russia sees Ukraine as a red line that the EU and Nato should never cross. Nato is a military organization formed in the post-world war era to band together against the Soviet Union. Since the collapse of the USSR, nato has inglobated many of the former USSR countries like Poland, Bulgaria, and the Baltic states. Russia sees this as a security threat, and it does not want Ukraine to be the next on the list.

“We have to understand how to ensure the regional stability, and because of that, we pose the question that there shall be no further movement of the nato toward the east.”
– Vladimir Putin at the annual press conference in Moscow

US has declined Russia’s demand to bar Ukraine from NATO, amid warnings Russia might invade its neighbor. To deter Russia’s probable invasion, the US and the EU are considering imposing a series of sanctions on Russia. Such sanctions could include greater restrictions on transactions with Russian financial institutions and U.S. technology exports, as well as the suspension of Russia’s pending Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project. However, there is a risk that Moscow could hit back at the West by throttling natural gas supplies to a beleaguered Europe or by triggering a spike in oil prices.

Read more: US rejects Russia demand on Ukraine

India: From multilateralism to bilateralism

If Moscow invades Ukraine, there will be a looming threat of a new cold war. States will have to choose again between the Russian and the American camp. Limiting this cold war to the European territory will not be easy as it will not take much time to spread all over the globe.

India, the strategic partner of the US and a long-lasting arms and trade partner of Russia, will have to face the paramount issue of choosing only one among these two. India has to choose between maintaining historical relations with Russia or emerging as an economic power at the cost of becoming a multi-barrel American gun used for achieving the USA’s regional gains.

The Chinese threat

The Sino-Russian brotherhood has a long history of cooperation. Even when the Cuban missile crisis emerged in 1962, URSS got the support of the Chinese. Today, the brotherhood is even stronger and more formalized. Last week, the world’s two most powerful autocrats unveiled a sweeping long-term agreement, that challenged nato and the western world. “Friendship between the two States has no limits,” they vowed in the communiqué, released after the two leaders met on the eve of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

This Sino-Russian alignment is providing China with a more confident and aggressive ground. On 23 January, the Chinese air force fled 39 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense zone, a record-breaking incursion since October 2021. India’s anxieties are primarily about worried that a Ukrainian invasion will distract America enough to lose its prime attention from the South Asia region, allowing China to exacerbate the situation on the line of actual control (LAC). Having Russia on its side will give China a free hand in the region.

Read more: Russia, China reject ‘unilateral’ sanctions by US

Ukraine’s invasion will prove to be a double-pronged sword for India. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is the second-largest importer of arms in the world. In recent years, it has brought arms from both Ukraine and Russia. The Russian S-400 Missile system is an example. India, by choosing one of the sides, might lose hefty arms deals as it is dependent on both Ukraine and Russia.

In case of sanctions, Russia will not be alone to suffer as it will be in the company of its old friend India. India will not be able to make its arms payments to Russia. That will further dent its military’s performance on the Laddakh front. It is also estimated that oil prices might reach a level of $115 per barrel increasing the hurdles of an already troubling nation of 1.38 billion people.

 

The writer is a geo-economics and regional studies enthusiast. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.