Russia and the West are pushing for India, but to no avail of neutrality towards Ukraine

The flurry of visits by Russian and Western diplomats is unlikely to change India’s neutral stance on the war in Ukraine, experts say, especially since the war has the support of the public, which is bombarded by the media blaming the US conflict.

As US and British officials in New Delhi this week pressured India to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov praised the government for not taking “one-sided opinion.”

“We appreciate that India fully perceives this situation,” Lavrov said on Friday after meeting with his counterpart, Subramaniyam Jaishankar, in the Indian capital.

Lavrod also said that India and Russia would use the rupee-ruble mechanism so that they could continue to trade in oil and other goods, despite Western sanctions against dollar deals with Moscow.

Indian Foreign Minister Sergei Jaishankar and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov met in New Delhi on Friday.AP

“We will be ready to supply India with any goods that India wants to buy,” he said.

The day before, a U.S. official said that while Washington was not opposed to India buying Russian oil, which was plummeting after the U.S., Britain and other countries announced an embargo, he did not want to see a “rapid acceleration” of such imports. .

“There are consequences for countries that are actively trying to circumvent or lift these sanctions,” Dalip Singh, a spokesman for deputy national security adviser, told reporters in New Delhi.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Trass, who was also in New Delhi on Thursday, said Britain would not dictate its actions to India, the world’s largest democracy, but stressed the need for “like-minded people to work together”.

Jaishankar, who sat next to Trass at a political forum in New Delhi, argued that the European Union was still buying Russian oil and that with rising prices it was “natural” for countries to look for the best deals.

Since the invasion on February 24, India has bought at least 13 million barrels of Russian oil, according to Reuters, almost as much as it bought for the whole of 2021.

“India will buy this because it needs this oil for India’s progress,” said Arun Saggat, senior researcher at the Strategic and Regional Security Division of the Delhi Policy Group’s independent think tank.

In a country where every rise in gas prices is provoking protests, cheaper Russian oil has been met with relief and in return greater public support from Moscow.

“Russia has been India’s oldest ally for a long time and it has been pushed into a corner by the Western world,” said Renouk Jain, an accountant from Delhi, through a messaging program.

She called buying oil a “brilliant solution.”

“The United States is more concerned about what will happen if oil is bought in another currency and the dollar loses its luster,” she said.

Although India has become closer to the United States in recent years, it has long relied on Russia in defense equipment, fighter jets and support in international forums when faced with neighbors such as China, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Congress is protesting against rising fuel prices
Employees of the Indian Youth Congress are protesting against rising fuel prices on March 26 in New Delhi.Salman Ali / Hindustan Times via Getty Images

“Only the Russians saved us – be it the Kashmir issue, the war in Bangladesh, national security, industry, the economy – while the United States was on the other side of the camp,” said Punchok Stobdan, a foreign policy expert. and former Indian ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, NBC News reported by phone from the northern Indian city of Leh.

These pro-Russian sentiments are reflected on the streets, on Twitter and on television across the country. While much of the world is protesting in support of Ukraine and against Russian President Vladimir Putin, right-wing groups in India are marching with banners with the slogan “Long live India-Russia friendship.”

“The sad part of the whole story is that they watch Netflix at night and Apple TV, and the next day curse the United States,” Saggat said.

India’s mainstream media, which serves most right-wing Hindus, has accused the United States of hypocrisy in the Ukrainian conflict and said the West played an important role in fueling it by supporting NATO’s eastward expansion of the US-led military alliance. during the Cold War to confront the Soviet Union.

“I do not believe in the idea of ​​Americans declaring themselves innocent, because it is the Americans who have a deep history of using the worst chemical weapons against the most innocent people,” said Arnab Gaswami, a top-ranked news anchor. March 11, citing, among other examples, the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War II.

Another star of the news, Rahul Shivshankar, held a debate entitled “Is the war planned or provoked?” He said India has the right to take a position different from that of the West, calling its neutral position on Ukraine “reasonable”.

Like China, India has called for a peaceful settlement of the conflict, but abstained from voting on UN resolutions criticizing Russia’s actions. It gives confidence to smaller countries in Asia and other countries that are also trying to balance their relations with world powers, Stobdan said.

“Putin is not going to stop his work just because India is voting against or for Russia. He will do whatever he wants, ”he said. “India will not matter. But what India is doing makes a difference in the international landscape. ”

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