India recently announced that it does not support the West’s sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine. While not completely aligning with Russia, India has been the first major nation to offer any public support.
It might sound surprising given that India usually comes out with a very neutral stance on these kinds of issues, and often in favor of the US/European position.
It might also sound surprising given that India’s most sensitive border issue is with Kashmir.
Traditional ethics might cause India to come to this logical conclusion:
- We have a small area of our country that is ethnically and linguistically similar to a neighbor who can be hostile (Pakistan).
- We do not want Pakistan to come and steal Kashmir from us.
- Therefore we will not support Russia’s advances into Ukraine in case the same happens to us.
However, in India, relational ethics (not situational or logical ethics) prevail in all circumstances. It’s not what is involved, but who.
8 (plus 1) Reasons India Will Continue to Back Russia’s Political Moves:
1. Russia has supported India heavily in the past. Russia supported India even more than fellow-communist country China during the Sino-Indian war in 1962. Russia brokered a peace deal between India and Pakistan in 1965 after a border war, which secured Kashmir as a part of India. In 1971, Russia supported the creation of Bangladesh, which was in India’s best interests. Again in 1975, Russia supported the addition (or annexation) of the state of Sikkim (a state bordering China) to India, through a referendum very similar to the one in Crimea.
2. Russia has backed India’s international standing. Russia has pushed for India to have a permanent place on the UN security council, as well as join the APEC, NSG, and SCO. Russia has also expressed sincere interest to join the South Asian coalition known as SAARC, which India leads.
3. India has backed Russian involvement in the past. India supported Russia’s previous political move in Georgia in 2008, despite severe disapproval from Western countries.
4. India is a huge arms importer from Russia. A recent report claimed that India is the world’s #1 importer of arms, surpassing China. Of all the arms India imports, 80% come from Russia. India buys one-third of all Russian-made arms.
5. India’s political relationship with the US is still on shaky ground. Tensions are still on alert after the recent diplomatic incident. India remains offended by this issue and is not ready to jump to the call of the West right now. Also, the likely next Prime Minister still has a visa ban for entering the US.
6. Russia is the most powerful neighbor India has. Russia is a very powerful nation, and they are also very geographically close to India. It would not be a good diplomatic move for India to come out against Russia. Any Bollywood movie will tell you that a powerful person (regardless of how grey their ethics are) is great to have as a friend and bad to have as an enemy.
7. Russia is a big partner in Space and Science. Russia and India have always had a close relationship in terms of space exploration and scientific achievement. These are the two fields that India really wants to show the world it can excel in, and a partnership with Russia is a big part of that.
8. India is gearing up for elections and doesn’t want to come across as soft. National elections are coming up quickly and the current government has long been criticized for being a puppet of the West. This is a subtle way of saying India is an independent voice and will not just go along with anything the West says.
But the most important reason India will continue to support Russia:
India and Russia speak the same language of support. The US gambled its relationship with India over something as “silly” as not paying a maid enough money. Russia would never do that. India wants a partner they can count on for the long-term, and won’t turn on them because of a technicality. India is also comfortable leaning on the support of a country that sometimes employs some grey ethics to get things done. India and Russia understand each other and will likely be allies for a long time.
Some articles are calling for India to make an even stronger stand for Russia, which is not likely, but look for India to continue to lean heavily towards Russia without full-out support.
Here are some links for the press coverage: