Published on: January 31, 2022
Conflict of Countries
Source: The Indian Express
India issued its first formal comment this week in the midst of the ongoing conflict between Russia and the West — headed by the United States — over Ukraine. It's been a stressful one and a half months, with the threat of war hanging big in the background.
India has finally spoken out on the crisis that has erupted as a result of Russia's military buildup on its border with Ukraine. What is Russia's goal, why is the West worried, and what are India's interests in its relations with each of these parties unclear?
What exactly is going on?
Ukraine has emerged as a source of disagreement in Moscow's ties with the West, with Russian soldiers stationed near its border and NATO forces on alert in case Russia launches an attack on its neighbour’s territory. Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers have been patrolling Ukraine's borders in the east and north, including at the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl, which is on the shortest route between Russia and Kyiv, the country's capital.
The Most Important Points
Ukraine and Russia have shared hundreds of years of cultural, linguistic, and family ties with one another for hundreds of years.
It is an emotive subject for many people in Russia and in the ethnically Russian-majority regions of Ukraine, and it has been used for electoral and military reasons in both nations.
Ukraine was the second-most powerful Soviet republic after Russia while it was a member of the Soviet Union, and it played a critical role in the Soviet Union's strategic, economic, and cultural development.
The Root of the Conflict:
Power Relationships: For nearly two decades, since Ukraine's breakaway from the Soviet Union, both Russia and the West have fought for greater influence in that country in order to maintain a favourable power balance in the region in their favour.
Western countries are protected by a buffer zone. Ukraine is a critical bulwark against Russian aggression in the eyes of the United States and the European Union.
As tensions with Russia escalate, the United States and the European Union are becoming increasingly eager to keep Ukraine out of Russian hands.
Russian Interest in the Black Sea: Russia's unique geographic position in the Black Sea area provides it with a number of geopolitical benefits.
First and foremost, it serves as a critical crossroads and strategic intersection for the entire region.
It is essential for all littoral and bordering governments to have access to the Black Sea, and it considerably boosts the projection of power into a number of nearby regions.
For the second time, the area serves as a vital transportation corridor for products and energy.
Protests erupt across Ukraine:
The Euromaidan Movement is a popular protest movement in Europe. Ukraine saw a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest known as Euromaidan (European Square). The demonstrations and unrest began in November 2013 with public rallies at Maidan Nezalezhnosti ("Independence Square"), in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
This was prompted by the Ukrainian government's decision to postpone the signature of an association agreement with the European Union, opting instead for deeper relations with Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union.
Pro-Russian Separatist Movement: Since 2014, the eastern Ukrainian region of the Donbass (which includes the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk) has been fighting a pro-Russian separatist movement.
Ukrainian officials claim that the Russian government actively supports the separatist movement and that Russian paramilitaries account for anything from 15 percent to 80 percent of the separatists fighting against the Ukrainian government.
Invasion of Crimea: Russia invaded Ukraine and occupied Crimea, marking the first time since World War II that a European country acquired the territory from another country.
Russia's takeover of Crimea from Ukraine followed a military intervention in Crimea that took place in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and was part of larger turmoil that spread across southern and eastern Ukraine at the time of annexation.
Because of Russia's invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea, the country now has a maritime advantage in the region.
Ukraine's NATO Membership: The Ukrainian government has encouraged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to expedite its country's admission to the alliance as soon as possible.
A move along this line has been labeled as a "red line" by Russia, which is concerned about the ramifications of the US-led military alliances spreading all the way up to its southern border.
Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine are all neighbours to the Black Sea. All of these nations are members of the NATO alliance.
As a result of the confrontation between NATO nations and Russia, the Baltic Sea has gained geopolitical significance and has the potential to become a maritime flashpoint.
The Agreements of Minsk:
In September 2014, the Ukrainian government and rebels supported by Russia reached an agreement on a 12-point ceasefire in the Belarusian city of Minsk.
Prisoner swaps, humanitarian assistance supplies, and the removal of heavy weaponry were among the stipulations of the agreement.
The agreement was swiftly dissolved as a result of infractions on both parties.
In 2015, an open confrontation was averted as a result of the signing of the 'Minsk II' peace accord, which was brokered by France and Germany and mediated by the United Nations.
Its goal was to bring the battle in the rebel-held districts to a close and give over control of the border to Ukrainian national soldiers.
It was signed by representatives from Russia, Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as the leaders of two pro-Russian separatist territories in eastern Ukraine and western Belarus.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the world's biggest intergovernmental organisation devoted to security. Among the issues covered by its mandate are issues such as arms control, promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, and free and fair election.
What is the position of India on this?
On Friday, Arindam Bagchi, the official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, delivered the country's first official statement on the crisis, which was delivered at the ministry's weekly briefing. "We have been closely following the developments in Ukraine, including the ongoing high-level discussions between Russia and the United States," he said in response to questions. Our embassy in Kyiv is also keeping an eye on the situation on the ground. For a long-term peace and security in the area and beyond, we advocate for a peaceful settlement of this issue via persistent diplomatic efforts."
What is the reason behind this now?
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman contacted Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on January 19 to address "Russia's worrying military buildup on Ukraine's borders." Sherman also reviewed the situation in the Middle East. New Delhi did not publish an official comment at the time, opting instead to closely follow the events. However, the government has now officially broken its silence on the matter.
With important strategic partners on both sides, India cannot afford to make any hasty decisions that could jeopardise its vital interests. When it comes to Russian "muscle-flexing," New Delhi is wary of jeopardising its strong military relations with Moscow, especially in light of the standoff with Beijing on India's eastern border.
Where does India stand now, in the wake of this announcement?
The Indian government voiced "alarm" about Russia's annexation of Crimea, but tempered it by stating that "legitimate Russian interests" were involved. Putin had expressed his appreciation to India for maintaining a "calm and objective" stance, and he had telephoned then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to convey his appreciation.
According to reports, India has refrained from issuing condemnatory remarks, as has been done by the Western nations, because of its connections with Russia. For the time being, New Delhi is optimistic that skillful negotiators on both sides would be able to bring the situation to a close. William Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has dealt with a number of difficult negotiations in his prior diplomatic capacities, while on the other side is Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.