India defends its Russia position, criticizes West at ‘Raisina Dialogue’
A security conference in New Delhi this week has revealed more about India’s stance on the Ukraine war and how it intends to chart an independent foreign policy.
At a conference organized by India’s Foreign Affairs Ministry this week, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said that India would set its own course on foreign policy, despite pressure from Europe and the US to join in condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“We have to be confident about who we are. I think it is better to engage the world on the basis of who we are rather than try and please the world as a pale imitation of what they are,” Jaishankar told the Raisina Dialogue, an annual foreign policy conference in New Delhi.
“This idea that others define us, somehow we need to get the approval of other quarters, I think that is an era we need to put behind us,” he added.
His comments come as India faces international criticism over its ties to Moscow.
At the conference, the foreign minister also criticized the West for its own shortcomings in defending the “rules-based order” during crises in Asia.
“The West should remember what happened in Afghanistan less than a year ago, where an entire civil society was thrown under the bus by the world,” Jaishankar said.
“When the rules-based order was under challenge in Asia, the advice we got from Europe is do more trade. At least we’re not giving you that advice,” he added.
Europe seeks Indian alignment
Jaishankar’s sharp remarks came as several European leaders at the summit hinted that New Delhi should reconsider its position on the Ukraine war and align itself with the West against Russia.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on the opening day of the conference that whatever is happening in Ukraine will also have an impact on Asia.
With Prime Minister Modi listening, von der Leyen suggested that India’s close ties with Russia could backfire because Russia and China have already said that their friendship has “no limits” and there are “no forbidden areas of cooperation.”
What can we expect from the “new international relations” that both have called for? she asked.
Von der Leyen also made a veiled appeal asking India to support Europe’s sanctions against Russia, saying sanctions give “us leverage to achieve a diplomatic solution that will bring lasting peace.”
“We urge all members of the international community to support our efforts for lasting peace,” von der Leyen said.
India’s stand on the Ukraine war will once again become the focus of European leaders as Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on a three-day visit to Germany, Denmark and France.
However, India’s sharp response to Western criticism on display at Raisina Dialogue indicates that it might be unrealistic to expect any change.
Could Europe change its mind on India?
Although there were many areas where European leaders noted that Indian and European values and interests converge, the consensus after the conference was that of disappointment, according to Gulshan Sachdeva, Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University Centre for European Studies.
“European leaders tried to convey that they feel that India should be taking a much bolder position as far as the Ukraine war is concerned,” Sachdeva told DW.
He added that although the West is disappointed, many leaders are beginning to understand that India is not going to fundamentally change its position and are trying to better understand why India is reluctant to criticize Moscow.
Swasti Rao, a Europe analyst at the Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, pointed out that India is dependent on Russia for arms sales as it deals with security issues on its borders.
However, Rao added, India does not share Russia and China’s ambition to change the global liberal order.