Mounting western pressure on India

Harsha Kakar
The release of images of the ‘Bucha’ killings by the Ukrainian government led to condemnation and demands for strict action against Russia. Biden described it as a war crime and termed Putin a war criminal. Many European nations expelled Russian diplomatic staff from their countries. The Ukrainian President, Zelensky, stated, ‘These are war crimes, and it will be recognised by the world as genocide.’ Russia denied reports of the killings claiming them to be fake. The Indian permanent representative to the UN, TS Tirumurti stated, ‘(India) supports the call for an independent investigation.’ This, while he condemned the killing of civilians. China repeated the Indian demand for a probe, and like India refused to blame Russia.
Information warfare adopted by Ukraine and the west (as Russia remains cut off from global media networks) have been known to include fake inputs. Since most inputs flow from the west, truth remains shrouded. There have been multiple incidents of fake news since the war commenced. Hence, neutral nations, including India, while displaying concern on reports of killings, have demanded an independent probe.
The US pushed for a vote to remove Russia from the UN Human Rights council on the basis of the Bucha killings. Russia was removed with 93 votes to 28, alongside 53 nations abstaining. A drop from when the US managed 141 votes against Russia on 02 Mar in the same General Assembly. The world has begun to doubt what is being projected as reality.
Further exploiting the incident, the US is placing demands on India not to enhance its oil imports from Russia, while its European allies continue to do so. 75% of Russia’s total gas exports go to Europe, mainly Germany, France and Italy. Both Germany and Italy have stated that it is not possible for them to stop these imports in the near future. Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Finland, Lithuania and Romania are large importers of Russian oil.
The EU is also contemplating blocking Russian coal imports however consensus is still some distance away. European nations are aware that stopping Russian energy imports could push their economy into recession, which they consider more crucial than punishing Russia. Hungary has officially announced to pay for Russian oil imports in Roubles. With the Saudi’s refusing to increase production and US oil costlier, the global economy could suffer. All nations are acting in their own national interests to safeguard their economies.
The Chinese Global Times in an article of 04 Apr quoted the Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary, Mikhail Popov, stating that in March, the US had increased its oil imports from Russia by 43% or 100,000 barrels a day. The US subsequently announced a ban on Russian oil. Popov also stated, ‘Washington allows its companies to export mineral fertilizers from Russia, recognizing them as essential goods.’ These continue as the US needs them. Jaishankar rightly stated in parliament, ‘Like all countries, we too are assessing the implications and deciding what is best for our national interest.’
Developing nations like India, which import over 85% of its oil cannot let their economy be ravaged on demands of the US which can insulate itself by enhancing domestic production of shale oil, which becomes economically viable as market prices increase. Even if it offers to supply oil to India, it would not be cost effective. A major fear for the US is that India would procure oil on the Rupee-Rouble exchange, bypassing the Dollar, thereby reducing its global importance. With Europe refusing to stop oil and gas imports, at least for this year, India too should be firm on its stance.
Indian oil imports are just 1-2% of its needs while those of Europe much greater. Hence, the US needs to first get its allies to do its bidding prior to looking outwards. No wonder the Indian foreign minister, S Jaishankar rightly stated in the Rajya Sabha, ‘I would like to take this opportunity to inform the House that we import very little oil from Russia. It is less than 1 per cent of our imports. Many other countries import 10, 15 to 20 times the amount of oil we import.’
The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, stated that India should also reduce its military dependency on Russia. It is easier said than done. Equipment inducted into service has a lifespan of 30-40 years. They cannot be discarded at will or on demand. It will be a slow process. India has already expanded its procurement base and is developing its own defence industry. Further, equipment for which India has already paid must be procured. This includes the S 400 missile system.
For Europe, the war is on its doorsteps and hence a matter of concern. For the US, responsibility of security of Europe is that of NATO, of which it is the senior partner, thus it is pushing to punish Russia. Similar concern was never displayed when the Chinese intruded into India. Current actions undertaken by the US, including arming Ukraine, do not in any way indicate a desire to end the conflict meeting Russian security concerns. They are more indicative of punishing Russia and ensuring that it cannot pose a threat to Europe.
India has thus rightly termed its neutral stance as one seeking an end to conflict and resolution by talks. Jaishankar stated what western leaders should have pushed but avoid doing which is, ‘New Delhi continues to press forcefully for an immediate cessation of hostilities and an end to violence. We encourage talks between Ukraine and Russia, including at the level of their Presidents. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to both of them in this regard.’
Indian firmness in adhering to its stance, despite global pressure has been accepted. India is no longer a pushover nation. PM Modi rightly stated, ‘today, the world has witnessed the emergence of such an India, which stands firm to safeguard its interests without any fear or pressure.’ It must not bow to western pressures.
Before the global economy crumbles and multiple global currencies emerge in the market, western leaders must look to ending the war by diplomacy, rather than pushing for its continuance. For this dialogue is the solution not confrontation.
The author is Major General (Retd)