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Russia-Ukraine conflict 2022 is like ‘dancing on a tightrope’ for India, says Shashi Tharoor

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Shashi Tharoor, a Congress member and former UN undersecretary-general, said that India’s stance on the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been like “dancing on a tightrope” because New Delhi was initially hesitant to say anything that would upset Moscow.

However, India has become more vocal against Russia over time, according to Tharoor, who also noted that India’s situation was precarious due to the presence of over 20,000 Indian citizens in Ukraine.

Shashi Tharoor believes India will now be able to calibrate its actions now that all Indians have been evacuated from the conflict zone. 

However, the world has seen India’s position with proper understanding, and Indian diplomacy has been successful in ensuring that, Tharoor said at a photo exhibition on Ukraine.

“India has gone through a very complicated and challenging time in negotiating as it were its own stand on the (Ukraine-Russia) crisis. There is no doubt that India in its very first statement seemed to be a little unwilling to say anything that the Russians will be upset about,” he said.


In addition, he said, “In our subsequent statements while we have continued to abstain at the UN, we have been a little more vocal on reiterating the principles and our diplomacy has taken into account the multifarious interests we have to look after.”

Shashi Tharoor explains why India is unable to provoke Russia

Tharoor said, “We are a member of Quad and we don’t want US to take its eyes off the Indo-Pacific and focus purely on Europe. And then with Ukraine itself, we had to pull out 23,000 Indian citizens, mainly students, in the first few weeks. So, because of all these interests, there is a bit of dancing on a tightrope.”

The Russia-Ukraine crisis has been raging for over a month, and Russia has recently announced a de-escalation zone in and around Kyiv. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, is expected to visit New Delhi, along with other high-ranking US and UK officials. 


“He will have a tough cause to defend and I am sure the talks that he is going to have in New Delhi will be very interesting,” Tharoor said.

Relationship between India and Russia

Moscow has praised New Delhi’s cautious approach to the Ukraine crisis, noting that India was not included in a list of “unfriendly countries” compiled by the Kremlin in response to a series of EU, US, and UK sanctions.

However, India’s position on the Ukraine conflict with Russia is not new. Even when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, India maintained its UN neutrality.

India’s stance is a result of its special relationship with Russia, according to Michael Kugelman, senior fellow for South Asia at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

“New Delhi has long viewed Moscow as its most reliable and trusted partner, a perception shaped by many decades of friendship, going back to the early years of the Cold War,” Michael Kugelman said.

Further, he added, “Indian leaders often speak of Russia as India’s closest and most reliable friend, a country that has never had any sort of crisis with India. And they see it as a country always willing to help India out on the global stage, including at the UN, where Russia’s voting patterns on issues like Kashmir have supported India.”

Between 2016 and 2020, Russia, India’s main strategic partner, exported arms worth $6.6 billion to the South Asian country. However, bilateral trade between India and Russia, which totalled $8.1 billion between April 2020 and March 2021, was lower than trade between India and the EU, which totalled 62.8 billion euros ($68.5 billion) during the same period.


According to Vivek Mishra, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi, India’s diplomatic position on Ukraine could be beneficial, and India’s strategic autonomy has “graded maturity.”

“India’s foreign policy has evolved from non-alignment to embracing strategic autonomy in defence and security policies. This crisis has displayed exactly that with India discussing the crisis with EU and the US, abstaining from taking a stance on the conflict in the UN, and talking to both Russia and Ukraine,” Mishra told.


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