Narendra Modi secures diplomatic victory despite refusing to break with Russia

Emmanuel Macron greeted him with a bear hug in front of the Elysée Palace shortly after he was re-elected French president. In Berlin, German Chancellor Olaf Schulz welcomed his “super partner.”British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on his visit to New Delhi Hasdostor a special friend.

The kindness of European leaders in recent weeks to Narendra Modi said the Indian prime minister’s frenzied period of international diplomacy is over, despite his refusal to cut ties with Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

After Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited India, Modi visited France, Germany and Denmark, where Western leaders courted him and signed bilateral agreements aimed at bringing New Delhi — seen as Asia’s important checks and balances against China – closer to the West.

Nirupama Rao, a former Indian foreign minister and ambassador, said: “People realise that India is too big and too important to be included in these convenient definitions, ‘Either you are for us or you are against us’ ‘.” to the United States and China. “The stance taken by India has largely helped India solidify its own interests.”

After some early criticism, Western leaders were careful to avoid tense exchanges over New Delhi’s relationship with Moscow. Instead, the UK and France announced a defence partnership to diversify their arsenals as India’s military relies on Russian weapons. The EU and the UK are also seeking to speed up free trade agreement negotiations to deepen economic ties.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Modi as his “khaas dost” or special friend during a visit to New Delhi in April © REUTERS

Some leaders, such as Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who met Modi in Copenhagen, said India could use its neutrality in the conflict to “influence” Moscow.

“Everyone understands that the political leadership in India is very comfortable,” said an Indian official, referring to the dominance of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in domestic politics.For foreign leaders, “the best option is to [the BJP] On issues of mutual concern, maintain subtle pressure on issues of concern”.

Many Indians think Russia is the country’s eldest partner. Post-independence leaders including India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, turned to the Soviet Union for economic inspiration. The country will continue to rely on military support to bolster its power against arch-rival Pakistan.

Economic ties to the US and Europe have become more important, but most of India’s weapons still originate in Russia, meaning New Delhi continues to rely on Moscow for services and logistical support.

India, sticking to its historic partner after the invasion, abstained in a UN vote condemning Russia.It also wants to strengthen bilateral tradingincrease imports Rosneft The discount comes as Western countries try to isolate the Kremlin economically by imposing broad sanctions. Still, India’s fuel imports from Russia are far lower than many European countries.

Yet analysts say that with India seen as an important geopolitical and economic alternative to China, international leaders see little to gain from irritated officials, who have reacted furiously to international criticism. Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in March condemned what he called a “campaign” of Russian oil imports targeting India.

Narendra Modi and Olaf Schultz

German Chancellor Olaf Schultz calls Modi a “super partner” during the Berlin conference © CLEMENS BILAN/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The European conflict has also diverted Western attention from what India considers more important: China’s military threat in Asia and the Indian Ocean. New Delhi and Beijing have been engaged in a military standoff on the Himalayan border since mid-2020.

C Raja Mohan, a senior fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute think tank, said that for the United States, “the Russia issue cannot be separated from the China issue.” “When it comes to China, India’s centrality is self-evident.”

But former Indian foreign minister KC Singh believes that India’s ambiguity about the Russia conflict could continue to damage the country’s relations with the West if leaders such as Biden conclude that New Delhi cannot be trusted in times of crisis.

“They are sending a signal to the West: How reliable is India as a partner?” he said. “On issues involving China, our interests converge with the Americans. On Ukraine, we want to sit on the wall. Can you be a selective partner?”

Others argue that India’s public comments and extensive meetings with Western leaders have shown its dissatisfaction with Putin’s actions. While India did not directly condemn Russia, it did criticize the killing of civilians in Bukha, but not directly. Modi has also repeatedly called on countries to respect “territorial integrity,” which some interpreted as an implicit rebuke of Moscow.

India’s stance is well known globally, Piyush Goyal, India’s commerce minister and a senior member of the BJP, told foreign reporters this week.

“We recognize that the democratic world needs to engage more with each other, and as a result, all world leaders, including the European Union, have a huge interest in expanding engagement with India,” he said.

Additional reporting by Chloe Cornish in Mumbai

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