NIAS Europe Studies

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National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS)
Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore
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NIAS Europe Studies
The Ukraine Conflict: What does it mean for Eastern Europe? Where does India stand?

  Mathew Sonu Simon

India stands non-aligned and focused on charting her path of self-reliance and asserting her autonomy in international politics.

Russia and Ukraine are involved in a protracted conflict that has caught the attention of international politics. Global politics stands adversely affected by constraints in supply chains (wheat, barley and sunflower oil) and oil, and natural gas supplies. European Union and the United States are thoughtfully exploring energy alternatives so as to reduce dependency on Russia.

Russia’s Crimea annexation: Writing on the Wall
The Russian narrative was that its backyard stood vulnerable as most of its Eastern Europe neighbours were joining NATO and seeking associational membership from European Union. Russia was left with no other option but to secure its borders. The Minsk agreement was a futile attempt of West intervention that fell apart. The West narrative that is widely posed in international media showed the tendencies of Russia being the aggressor flouting all the international norms and laws. As a result, there were sanctions imposed on Russian individuals, business entities and State agencies, therein cornering and isolating Russia from finance, trade and international politics. It is indeed surprising that in today’s interdependent, globalizing world, isolation rather than due engagement has become the state of play in international politics.

Russian offensive onslaught on parts of Eastern Ukraine would continue unless peace and urgency for dialogue are called forth by the warring parties concerned only without attaching conditionalities. The Russian claim that certain parts of Ukraine have pockets of ethnic Russian resistance in form of separatist tendencies does not hold ground. A ‘referendum’ in the said disputed region conducted to that effect to determine the policy of self-determination fails the higher test of sovereignty of Ukraine.

What about other Russian neighbors? Will they meet the same fate?
Is Russia’s insecurity and its aggressive postures at the cost of the peace and order of Eastern Europe? The other question is whether Russia is flexing its muscles in Eastern Europe with the intent to confront the West in times to come. There clearly appears then a crisis of identity in Eastern European countries. Incidentally, it also opens the fissures of the East-West divide within Europe.

The sole dependence on the United States and Western European states to stave off Russia is no way forward in the longer term for East Europeans to realize their unique identity and assert their potential and independent presence in the geopolitics of the region.

What next for Ukraine?
Ukraine has borne the brunt of heavy casualties with several of its citizens killed, displaced, and seeking refuge and asylum in their neighbouring countries. Ukraine backed by the West in terms of military support however has so far been unable to successfully repel Russian advances strategically. Ukraine has received widespread support from the West and the majority of member states from the United Nations. It has received aid and assistance from international donor agencies. The citizens of Ukraine in the generations to come would never forgive and forget the tribulations and sufferings it has to bear due to Russian pressurizing tactics and maneuverings that the nation as a whole has been subjected to. Ukraine has every right in its jurisdiction as a sovereign state to join NATO or seek membership from European Union or get help from the United States. Ukraine does the same clearly for its self- preservation and national interest. However, that time is not afar when Ukraine has to take hard, strategic decisions without its dependence on the West in charting its foreign policy ahead.

What about India’s position?
India’s abstention from United Nations Security Council resolutions is by no means an open declaration of Russian support for the conflict. It also does not either mean we are not reading seriously about the developments in Ukraine. Europeans and Americans have left no stone unturned in attempting to convince India of her ‘erroneous’ diplomatic actions. India has made her stance clear. She called for a cessation of hostilities between the warring parties and advocated for due compliance with international norms, conventions and rule of law. She banks and values the principle of sovereignty and respects the territorial integrity of nation-states. She is following her national interest and is neither swayed by Russian, American and European concerns. She did well in prioritizing her interests by evacuating Indian students from conflict zones through Operation Ganga.

In strategic circles, it is claimed that India may require Russia in terms of military supplies and countering the China-Pakistan axis in the South Asian neighbourhood. India also at the same time would require the United States to fend off Chinese challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. However, it does not imply that India is dependent and less watchful of US and Russian foreign policy tactics. India follows her foreign policy and respects its partnerships across the world in accordance with her national interest.

India is a durable, strategic partner for the US, Russians and Europeans alike as evidenced by her steadfast support for the distribution of vaccines across the world. India stands non-aligned and focused on charting her path of self-reliance and asserting her autonomy in international politics. India of today does not stand to be manoeuvred by Great Powers in her foreign policy priorities and interests. India is watching closely the developments in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its rippling effects on Eastern Europe with the utmost caution, and concern and analyzing its deeper implications worldwide.

About the author
Dr. Mathew Sinu Simon teaches political science in Presidency University, Bangalore

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