Russia’s status as India’s major arms supplier and trustworthy ally appears to have influenced India’s response. However, India’s backing for Ukraine may have enabled it to reconcile both principle and national interest.
Most Indian commentators have excused the Narendra Modi government’s abstentions on the UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UNHCR resolution on human rights, and even the decision to take the issue to the UN general assembly as an attempt to make the best of a bad situation. Russia has been a reliable ally, they argue, as our major armaments supplier; it has defended India in the UN over Kashmir, not to mention Bangladesh, since 1971. Furthermore, voting against Russia would force it deeper into the arms of China, increasing that country’s security danger to India.
All three reasons have been out of date since the Cold War ended three decades ago and Vladimir Putin rose to power 20 years ago. More alarmingly, they reflect a complacency toward India’s own national security interests, which will only worsen with time.
Yes, Russia is our greatest armaments supplier, and if we vote against it, our supply would be jeopardized. But, no, Russia is not a trustworthy weaponry supplier; it has not been since Putin took office.
Arms deliveries are routinely delayed, and Putin has taken advantage of the delays to raise costs, sometimes almost doubling them. In comparison, French delivery of Rafael planes have been quite quick, albeit costs have risen sharply between those negotiated by the Manmohan Singh government and those signed under Modi.
Putin, far from assisting us, has turned a blind eye to China’s numerous acts of aggression against India. Russia was responsible for keeping us out of recent Afghan peace talks. What was our reaction back then? Appeasement. We purchased significant numbers of armaments to appease Russia when Putin accused us of moving closer to the US, hoping that they would interfere with China. What was the outcome? Another piece of Chinese salami.
When China addressed Kashmir before the UN Security Council in 2019 and 2020, Russia did little to assist us. The US and European governments assisted at the time, despite their own human rights standards.
Indeed, the claim that the United States and Europe were absent from our China dispute is absolutely inaccurate. The Modi government attempted to minimize China’s assertiveness. We did not bring the problem to the UN Security Council or seek a resolution.
Given that our administration continues to deny that we have lost land and appears to regard the loss of patrolling rights as insignificant, blaming other nations of absence seems a little harsh. Finding friends to counter China should be a top priority, but we don’t even know if the Modi government has accepted the US offer of high-tech monitoring. Such vacillations only serve to strengthen Xi’s China.