Nation must fulfill responsibilities as regional power

As a regional power in the democratic camp, India has a responsibility to contribute to the stability of the international order. At the very least, shouldn’t India express the stance that it will not tolerate the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

India has abstained from all voting on resolutions condemning Russia at the U.N. Security Council, the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Human Rights Council, thus setting itself apart from the United States, Europe and Japan, which have been stepping up pressure on Russia.

India has avoided directly criticizing Russia and has not joined sanctions against the country. While the international community is moving to break away from dependence on Russian energy, India has expressed an intent to expand imports of Russian crude oil.

Although its crude oil imports are smaller than those of Europe, there is concern that the effectiveness of the sanctions will be undermined as a result of India, which possesses economic power comparable to that of Britain and France, supporting the Russian economy.

India’s consideration for Russia is said to be due to their traditional friendly relations.

In a difficult security environment that involves conflicts with neighboring Pakistan and China, military cooperation with Russia has been a pillar of India’s foreign and security policy since the Cold War era. Even today, about half of the weapons that India uses are said to be procured from Russia.

India and China continue to clash, with skirmishes over border disputes. India is probably wary that participating in sanctions against Russia will make it harder for it to obtain Russian military support and deal with the Chinese threat.

India, along with Japan, the United States and Australia, is a member of the Quad partnership, which aims to stabilize the Indo-Pacific region with a view to deterring China. Since its geographical conditions and security environment differ from those of maritime nations Japan, the United States and Australia, it is understandable that it would adopt its own strategy.

However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a serious issue involving respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, a spirit set forth in the U.N. Charter and also emphasized by India. If India continues to adopt an ambiguous stance, placing too much priority on its relations with Russia, it will likely lose international credibility.

If India takes a tough position toward Russia’s violation of international law, this will also help it gain broad support from other countries in the event that China attempts to change the status quo by force in the Sino-Indian conflict.

At the recent 2-plus-2 foreign and defense ministerial meeting with India, the United States announced that it would work to make it easier for India to procure expensive U.S. weapons. Efforts to reduce India’s dependence on Russia must be persistently pursued.

Japan must also continue to persuade India of the importance of the international community acting in concert, and the Quad summit meeting scheduled for May in Tokyo should serve as an opportunity to strengthen unity.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 18, 2022)