Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba showed how woefully ignorant he is of Russian-Indian relations in response to that South Asian state’s media question on Wednesday. He said that India could tell in “a very clear manner to Russia, the following, that Ukraine is a friend and a partner of India and India will find any attempt of Russia to solve the current crisis by military means or to continue to destabilize Ukraine from inside unacceptable. If Russia hears that from the Indian government, it will be a very strong message of support, and it will make an impact.”
Russian-Indian relations don’t operate anything like how Kuleba implied. It’s a special and privileged strategic partnership between two Great Powers that treat one another as equals and with respect. There isn’t any so-called “hierarchy” between them whereby one can tell the other what to do or what not to do. Moreover, they’ve never done that to one another either. As a case in point, Russia didn’t say such things to India during its summer 2020 clashes with China over the Galwan River Valley even though “China is a friend and a partner of Russia” to paraphrase his relevant quote.
India’s stance towards the undeclared US-provoked missile crisis in Europe and especially the Western Mainstream Media’s fearmongering about alleged Russian intentions towards Ukraine is simple and was publicly expressed last week. According to a spokesman from its Ministry of External Affairs, “We call for a peaceful resolution of the situation through sustained diplomatic efforts for long-term peace and stability in the region and beyond.” That’s it. India’s position is balanced and pragmatic. It adheres to international law and doesn’t choose anyone’s side.
There is absolutely no way that India will choose Ukraine over Russia when its relations with the former are much less strategic than with the latter. If anything, uninformed observers might have predicted that India would choose Russia over Ukraine, but that prediction would also belie ignorance of Russian-Indian relations. These two Great Powers are attempting to jointly assemble a new Non-Aligned Movement (“Neo-NAM”) for creating the third pole of influence in the increasingly bi-multipolar world order, to which end they must do their utmost to show others that they’re strictly neutral in disputes.
India would lose any chances of cooperating with Russia on the Neo-NAM if it did what Kuleba requested. It would lose its international credibility as a neutral balancing partner if it took Russia’s side over Ukraine’s. Kuleba is either utterly ignorant of Indian grand strategy despite being his country’s Foreign Minister or purposely trying to provoke it to complicate relations with Russia. Both scenarios are worrying, the first for obvious reasons and the second since it suggests that he might be trying to drive a wedge between those historically partnered Great Powers.
Only he can account for his intentions if publicly challenged to do so, but even then, he probably wouldn’t be sincere. Therefore, observers should treat his policy prescriptions with scepticism since he simply can’t be trusted. Kuleba is either terribly unqualified for his position as Ukraine’s top diplomat or he’s scheming to drive a wedge between Russia and India while presenting his country as the latter’s close partner. From the Indian perspective, it would arguably be better if the first scenario is closer to reality than the second, but it’s, of course, up to that country’s diplomats to reach their conclusion.