Narendra Modi secures diplomatic wins despite refusing to break with Russia

Emmanuel Macron greeted him with a bear hug in entrance of the Elysée Palace shortly after he was re-elected French president. In Berlin, German chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomed his “super partner”. UK prime minister Boris Johnson, on a go to to New Delhi, lavished reward on his khaas dost, or particular good friend.

The bonhomie from European leaders in current weeks in direction of Narendra Modi capped a frantic interval of worldwide diplomacy for the Indian prime minister, regardless of his refusal to interrupt ties with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Modi toured France, Germany and Denmark after visits to India by Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, as western leaders courted him and signed bilateral offers designed to bind New Delhi — seen as an important Asian counterbalance to China — nearer to the west.

“There’s the realisation that India is far too big and far too important to be slotted into these convenient definitions of, ‘Either you’re with us or you’re against us’,” mentioned Nirupama Rao, a former Indian overseas secretary and ambassador to the US and China. “The stand that India has taken has largely helped India to consolidate its own interests.”

After some early criticism, western leaders have fastidiously averted tense exchanges over New Delhi’s ties with Moscow. Instead, with India’s navy depending on Russian weaponry, the UK and France have introduced defence partnerships to be able to diversify its arsenal. The EU and UK have additionally sought to turbocharge talks at no cost commerce offers to deepen financial hyperlinks.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson with Narendra Modi
UK prime minister Boris Johnson described Modi as his ‘khaas dost’, or particular good friend, throughout a go to to New Delhi in April © REUTERS

Some leaders, resembling Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen, who met Modi in Copenhagen, have prompt that India might use its neutrality over the battle to “influence” Moscow.

“Everyone understands the fact that the political leadership in India is perfectly comfortable,” one Indian official mentioned, referring to the dominance of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in home politics. For overseas leaders, “the best option is to align with [the BJP] on issues that are of mutual interest and keep subtle pressure on issues which are of concern”.

Many Indians think about Russia to be the nation’s oldest associate. Post-independence leaders together with Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, regarded to the Soviet Union for financial inspiration. The nation would go on to depend upon navy assist to bolster its forces towards arch-rival Pakistan.

Economic ties with the US and Europe have turn out to be much more consequential however most of India’s weapons are nonetheless Russian in origin, that means that New Delhi continues to depend on Moscow for servicing and logistical assist.

India caught with its historic associate after the invasion, abstaining in UN votes denouncing Russia. It has additionally regarded to bolster bilateral commerce, growing imports of Russian oil at a reduction as western international locations tried to isolate the Kremlin economically by imposing wide-ranging sanctions. The quantity of Indian gas imports from Russia nonetheless stays properly under many European international locations.

Yet analysts say that, with India thought of an important geopolitical and financial different to China, worldwide leaders see little upside to irritating officers, who’ve responded furiously to worldwide criticism. Foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in March denounced what he known as a “campaign” towards India over its Russian oil imports.

Narendra Modi with Olaf Scholz
German chancellor Olaf Scholz known as Modi a ‘super partner’ throughout conferences in Berlin © CLEMENS BILAN/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The European battle has additionally drawn western consideration away from what India considers a much more essential situation: China’s navy menace in Asia and the Indian Ocean. New Delhi and Beijing have been engaged in a navy stand-off at their Himalayan border since mid-2020.

For the US, “the Russian question does not take away from the China problem”, mentioned C Raja Mohan, a senior fellow with the Asia Society Policy Institute think-tank. “On the China question, India’s centrality is self-evident.”

But KC Singh, a former Indian overseas secretary, argued that India’s equivocation over the Russian battle might nonetheless go on to harm the nation’s ties with the west if leaders resembling Biden conclude that New Delhi can’t be trusted in instances of disaster.

“They’re sending a signal to the west: how reliable can India be as a partner?” he mentioned. “We have a convergence of interest with the Americans where China is concerned. Where Ukraine is concerned we want to sit on the wall. Can you be a selective partner?”

Others imagine India’s public feedback, in addition to in depth rendezvous with western leaders, have made its disapproval of Putin’s actions clear. While India has indirectly condemned Russia, it did criticise the killing of civilians in Bucha with out directing blame. Modi has additionally repeatedly known as on international locations to respect “territorial integrity”, which some learn as a veiled rebuke of Moscow.

Piyush Goyal, India’s commerce minister and a senior BJP member, instructed overseas reporters this week that India’s place was properly understood globally.

“We recognise that the democratic world needs to engage with each other much more and, therefore, there’s huge interest among all world leaders, including the European Union, to expand engagement with India,” he mentioned.

Additional reporting by Chloe Cornish in Mumbai

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