Russia has invaded Ukraine. The world is outraged. The United States and its allies are angry. NATO is infuriated. It can do nothing but mutely spectate as Russian President Vladimir Putin redefines Eastern Europe. China has refused to call Russia’s act an ‘invasion’ and has urged all sides to exercise restraint. India is walking a diplomatic tightrope. New Delhi is neither condemning Russia nor is it condoning Moscow’s flagrant invasion of Ukraine. Here’s an interesting fact: Russia has alienated every major country except China. Now, it needs a friend which can help Moscow swim the hot waters internationally.
India is that friend, which is why the first leader Putin called after invading Ukraine was PM Modi
Diplomatic channels between Russia and the West, particularly between Moscow, Washington and various European capitals have frozen. Now, Russia has no way of speaking to its enemies, whether they be in the form of NATO, or whether they be individual countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and others.
Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin ended up fighting with each other during a phone call held between the two after Russia announced an invasion of Ukraine. For all those following the conflict closely, that was the cue that made it known that high-level diplomatic channels between Russia and the West had been severed.
India Initially Kept Out of Loop
For reasons best known to him, Vladimir Putin kept India out of the loop. By contrast, he is said to have informed Chinese President Xi Jinping of his plans vis-à-vis Ukraine. Perhaps Moscow thought growing cooperation and partnership between New Delhi and Washington could prove detrimental to its own interests. Nonetheless, Russia did not deem it necessary to inform India about its plans for Eastern Europe.
However, now that the conflict has broken out, China has not proven to be very useful. In fact, China itself is a pariah state in the eyes of the West. So, Beijing is not in a position to play the role of a mediator between Moscow and Washington-London-Brussels.
Russia Realises India’s Importance
In what seems to have been a misjudgement on the part of Moscow, Russia has realised the futility of banking on China’s diplomatic prowess around the world.
So, it has turned to India once again. Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first world leader who Vladimir Putin called to explain Russia’s ongoing operations in Ukraine. PM Modi called for an immediate cessation of violence, but also appreciated the call by Putin and his efforts at explaining the crisis to India with context which is often given a miss by the West and the media.
Now, Russia has India in its corner once again, even if New Delhi is unwilling to publicly admit the same. Vladimir Putin now has the option of opening diplomatic channels with the West via India. New Delhi enjoys special relationships with all major world powers, especially the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany. So, India can play a big role in bringing a sense of normalcy between Russia and the West once Moscow achieves its objectives in Ukraine.
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Meanwhile, India has also received assurances from Vladimir Putin regarding the safety of Indian students in Ukraine.
Russia needs markets – desperately. India is one such big market. China is another. But association with China does not come with diplomatic heft of the kind that India has to offer. Russia seems to have learnt this the hard way.