India is under increasing pressure to condemn Russia as a key ally over the invasion of Ukraine

New Delhi - India is the sole major U.S. ally who has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine clearly nor supported sanctions against the country.

India is under increasing pressure to condemn Russia as a key ally over the invasion of Ukraine

This upsets many of its Western allies. It abstained in recent U.N. Security Council or General Assembly votes about Russia-Ukraine. They argued that sanctions are not a solution and that the warring sides should return to the table.

India spoke out about the importance "the UN Charter and international law" and offered medical assistance to Ukraine. However, it did not explicitly condemn Russia.

The country is now under pressure to denounce Russia, India's long-standing friend and largest arms supplier -- immediately and unambiguously.

Washington's top officials have asked India for a "clear position", while others demanded that India stop trying to balance Russia and the West.

Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary of State at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs of the U.S. State Department, stated that "It's now [for India] for India to further distance itself against Russia," hinting that the U.S. might reconsider its position on lifting sanctions against India.

When the U.S. signed a $5.43B deal with Russia to buy the S-400 missile defence system, it did not invoke CAATSA (Countering American's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act).

Lu stated this week that the Biden administration would consider CAATSA.

He said that India is a very important security partnership and that all of us had been trying to push India to adopt a clear position against Russia's actions.

India's position explained

India insists that it is not supporting Russia’s war against Ukraine. It says its abstention at U.N. votes primarily signifies that it wants to see the conflict resolved through dialogue.

"It is regrettable that the path to diplomacy has been abandoned. "We must return to them," TS Tirumurti (India's Permanent Representative to United Nations Security Council) said during the U.N. Security Council's last week's emergency session.

"India would not describe its position as supporting Russia due to the fact that India abstained from voting in favor of Russia, and reiterated the importance territorial integrity and sovereignty," stated Tanvi Madan (a senior fellow at Washington D.C.'s Brookings Institution) and author of "Fateful Triangle": How China Shaped US and Indian Relations during the Cold War.

Experts believe that India maintains a healthy relationship to both Russia and Ukraine because of the thousands, mostly students, of Indian citizens who are trying to flee the country.

One-third of the estimated 20,000 Indians living in Ukraine have returned home. However, thousands more are struggling to escape the shelling and reach neighbouring countries where they could fly back to India.

One Indian student was shot to death in Kharkiv by shelling last Tuesday, and another was injured in Kyiv Thursday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to both Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin since the fighting began.

India's dependence upon Russia

Russia is India's largest supplier of arms, including tanks, fighter jets and ships, as well as other defense equipment.

Nandan Unnikrishnan (a distinguished fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation), stated that there has been "only one" transfer of a nuclear submarine from one country to another in the history of the globe.

India has received it from Russia. Unnikrishnan said, "That's the level strategic cooperation that India is going to get from Russia."

Experts say that India's position regarding the Russia-Ukraine conflict largely reflects its desire to keep a wider relationship with Russia. Russia has served India's interests on the international stage by supporting India through its voting patterns and especially in the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan.

Madan, of the Brookings Institution, stated that it was not only Russian military supplies but also India's need for spare parts and supplies within the context of the China India boundary crisis which is still ongoing.

New Delhi has decreased its imports from Russia in recent years and increased its purchases from the U.S. However, India's dependence on Russia remains high. It would be more difficult for India to purchase additional defense equipment from Russia if there are new sanctions.

The China factor and its impact on U.S.-India relations

New Delhi's concern that Russia may be closer to China may explain India's decision.

P. S. Raghavan (ex-Indian ambassador to Russia) said that "we have to be concerned about how our interests are in this part of world because we have some challenges with China."

"The U.S. has become a less important player in Eurasia since the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan." According to Unnikrishnan, Observer Research Foundation, Russia is India's only hope of preventing China from becoming a hegemon.

The U.S. considers India an important Asian ally in order to counter China's growing influence. Experts believe that the U.S. would accept India's non-anti-Russian stand.

"I don’t believe the U.S. will let these differences compromise the U.S.-India relationship. ... Madan stated that although they think the plane will experience some turbulence, they will still try to keep it steady."

Experts agree that India's silence regarding Russian aggression is not new. However, this time it is a "big bet."

India must tread a delicate diplomatic line when managing its close relationship with Russia and its growing relations to the U.S.A. and the West. India insists on staying on the fence. It's sitting on fences that could collapse," stated Michael Kugelman (deputy director, Asia Program, Washington D.C.-based think tank, Wilson Center).

He stated that India's situation was becoming "increasingly untenable".

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