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UKRAINE CRISIS - WILL INDIA BE FORCED TO TAKE SIDES ?
WEDNESDAY, 22 DECEMBER 8 PM IST
Amb. Kanwal Sibal is career diplomat who retired as Foreign Secretary to the Government of India. Indian Ambassador to Turkey, Egypt, France and Russia. In 2017, The Government of India awarded him with the Padma Shri award for his distinguished services in the field of Public Affairs
The unusual buildup of Russian troops near Eastern Ukraine has drawn fears of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine. While strongly denying such claims, Russia has admitted that its relations with the US and NATO have approached a “dangerous point”. Russia has called for immediate talks with the US, ahead of which it has put forth a tough list of demands. These include that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries and roll back the deployment of troops and weapons in central and eastern Europe. US is unlikely to acquiesce and has announced that it will be coming out with a set of counter demands. If diplomatic talks fail, tensions could quickly escalate.
India wants to retain its strategic autonomy and pursue independent relations with each of the great powers. But this has become difficult with the resurgence of hostility between the West and Russia.
India cannot afford to alienate Russia, it’s most important defence partner, especially not when India is dealing with heightened security concerns posed by an increasingly aggressive China. In the past, India has shown understanding towards Russia’s concerns in Ukraine, such as by voting against a Western-backed UN resolution in 2020 on human rights violations in Crimea.
But many observers point out that India would not be able to easily look away if Russia invades Ukraine, an important trading partner to India. As a leading democracy, India would be expected to condemn the illegal occupation of a fellow democracy, and the accompanying human rights violations. More so India’s western partners would insist on its cooperation.
So far India has tried to remain neutral and called for a constructive dialogue among all stakeholders. However if the crisis snowballs, India might be pressured into taking a stand. Who will India choose - it’s key strategic partner, the US or its long-time friend Russia? How can India walk this diplomatic tightrope without alienating either side?
In this event, Padma Shri Kanwal Sibal will discuss with us the diplomatic complexities of this challenging situation for India.