Pitching For Peace

Part 1 of the comprehensive analysis of the ongoing Russian-Ukraine conflict by the author delved into the historical context of the protracted War. The unfolding Part-2 now explores the potential outcomes of the ongoing strife and discusses India’s delicate position, balancing relations with the US, Russia, and its commitment to global peace. India can play a crucial role as a mediator, leveraging its diplomatic strengths and contributing to a sustainable resolution in the Eurasian region

By Lt Gen (Dr) SK Gadeock


In the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, it is imperative to critically analyse two fundamentally significant questions: the origins of the conflict and the immediate possibilities for its termination. Additionally, we explore the essential need to foster closer ties among nations through systematic multilateral dialogues to mitigate further destruction, both in terms of human lives and material resources.

It is crucial to underscore the aftermath of the Soviet disintegration, where NATO membership was successively granted to Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia. This historical sequence justifies Russian apprehensions of NATO enlargement, portraying a domino effect that has significantly reshaped the NATO-Russia border (refer to Figure 2).

The increasing proximity of American military infrastructure to Russian borders stood out as a major source of antagonism for Russia. It is plausible to argue that the American exploitation of weakened Russian power post-Soviet Union dissolution, coupled with antagonisation, has significantly contributed to the present-day conflict. This conflict, in turn, has prompted some neutral states to abandon their neutrality and join NATO (Figure 2). Yanukovych’s attempt to sign a trade agreement with the EU, not NATO, triggered the Maidan protest movement and Russia’s initial invasion.

Despite the Russian military’s less-than-stellar performance and the severe impact of current sanctions, there remains a possibility of Russia achieving a battlefield victory, albeit at a high cost. However, the odds of sustaining a long-term protectorate dwindle with each day Ukraine resists. The ultimate resolution hinges on the response from the West and, crucially, the determination of Ukrainians to defend a nation that President Putin believes does not and should not exist.

In response to the conflict, the US and the EU have predominantly focused on imposing sanctions against Russia and supporting Ukraine militarily. The US has implemented a range of sanctions targeting individuals, entities, and sectors of the Russian economy. These measures aim to pressure Russia into changing its stance in Ukraine and adhering to international norms.

Simultaneously, the EU has imposed its own set of sanctions, including travel bans, asset freezes, and economic cooperation restrictions, particularly in finance, energy, and defence sectors. Both the US and the EU have extended political, financial, and humanitarian support to Ukraine, encompassing aid packages, military assistance, and diplomatic backing.

Diplomatically, they have been actively involved in supporting the Minsk agreements within the framework of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), aiming at a ceasefire and political settlement in eastern Ukraine. Both the US and the EU have consistently condemned Russian actions against Ukraine, highlighting the violation of international law, Ukraine’s sovereignty, and territorial integrity. They have advocated for a rules-based international order and respect for international norms.

Figure 2: Russian Neighbourhood with NATO Member States    Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18023383

In this intricate geopolitical landscape, the path forward requires nuanced analysis and strategic considerations to navigate the complexities of the Russian-Ukraine conflict and pave the way for a sustainable resolution.

Several Western analysts appear to misconstrue the roots of the conflict, accepting the Kremlin’s narrative that NATO enlargement triggered the war. This perspective does not withstand serious scrutiny. Kyiv’s pursuit of NATO membership is a response to Russian aggression over the past nine years. However, this quest lacks broad support within the alliance, requiring unanimous agreement from all NATO members for Ukraine to join. Many allies are hesitant to commit to war against Russia on Ukraine’s behalf. This understanding was well grasped in Moscow. President Putin’s remark in June 2022, “There is nothing to worry us in terms of Swedish and Finnish membership of NATO,” hardly suggests that NATO’s enlargement deeply concerned the Kremlin.

Russia and Ukraine: India’s Symbiotic Relationship

India-Ukraine: India has maintained friendly relations with Ukraine since its time as part of the Soviet Union. The international cooperation between India and Ukraine extended to supporting the resolution of the Jammu & Kashmir issue based on the Simla agreement. Recognising Ukraine as a sovereign country in December 1991, India established diplomatic relations in January 1992, opening the Embassy of India in Kyiv in May 1992. Ukraine reciprocated by opening its Mission in Delhi in February 1993 – its first in Asia.

The bilateral agreements between India and Ukraine, totalling nearly 17, cover areas such as science and technology, foreign office consultation, space research & cooperation, avoidance of double taxation, and promotion and protection of investments. Economically, Ukraine is India’s second-largest trade partner in the former Soviet Union after Russia. The Treaty on Friendship and Co-operation signed in 1992 further bolstered the relations between the two nations. In 2020, India ranked as the 15th largest exporter and the 2nd largest importer of pharmaceutical products from Ukraine.

New Delhi’s reluctance to overtly criticize the Russian invasion has enabled the preservation of historical ties with Moscow. As a significant member of the global south, India has been assiduously courted by both Russia and Ukraine since the war’s inception. India can play a pivotal role in halting this conflict, leveraging its credible diplomacy to maintain warm ties with Ukraine

India’s major exports to Ukraine include electrical & electronic equipment, plastics & related articles, oil seeds, oleaginous fruits, grain, fruits, seeds, and chemical products. In return, India imports animal and vegetable fats and oils amounting to $1.6 billion and fertilizers standing at $232.8 million in 2020. The trade deficit with Ukraine was $1.7 billion in 2020, including exports worth $438.3 million and imports worth $2.1 billion.

In terms of soft power, India extends training programs to Ukraine under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program, offering capacity-building programs in various centres of excellence in India. The Indian government also provides scholarships for higher-level courses covering a wide range of subjects in various prominent Indian institutions.

India-Russia: India has maintained robust and multifaceted relations with the former USSR and now its successor, Russia, spanning decades and covering defence, energy, and cultural exchanges. Russia has been a significant supplier of military equipment to India, and both nations have collaborated on global issues, including counterterrorism and regional stability. However, the conflict in Ukraine has strained India’s relations with Russia. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatist movements in eastern Ukraine have raised concerns globally, including in India.

India, known for its adherence to non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, has had to tread carefully in supporting Russia’s actions. Despite the challenges posed by the conflict, the historical ties between India and Russia continue to form a cornerstone of India’s diplomatic engagements, requiring nuanced and strategic navigation to balance interests amid evolving geopolitical dynamics.

The primary drivers of India-Soviet Union relations were converging geopolitical interests rather than shared values. For the Soviets, India represented a stable and populous country with growing national power, leading the non-aligned and anti-colonial nations. India viewed the Soviet Union as a crucial economic and defence partner, supporting its development and security. Mutual diplomatic support was evident, with the Soviet government backing India’s claim to Kashmir and India voting with or abstaining against Soviet actions during key Cold War events.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union shifted the balance of the relationship. New Delhi, transformed by economic reforms in the early 1990s, maintained traditional ties with Russia while forging a strategic partnership with the US. India’s approach to the war in Ukraine reflects its commitment to maintaining a delicate balance between relations with Russia and the US. It emphasises the need for peaceful dialogue and diplomacy while expressing concerns over Russian actions. Collaborating with like-minded nations such as Australia, Canada, Japan, and South Korea, India should explore an immediate cessation of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine.

Possible Indian Strategy with Positive Outcomes

India’s approach aims to balance various considerations for lasting peace and stability in the Eurasian region, including strategic partnerships, energy security, economic interests, and adherence to international norms. India, a significant global player with historical ties to both Russia and Ukraine, faces complex choices. It sees Russia as a reliable strategic partner and has historically maintained a neutral stance in global conflicts involving major powers. Advocating for peaceful resolutions, adherence to international law, and diplomatic negotiations aligns with India’s approach.

Consideration of economic interests and energy security is crucial, given India’s significant imports from Russia. New Delhi has managed crises through well-calibrated responses while balancing partnerships. India faces a delicate situation, given historical ties with Russia and strengthening relations with Western nations. Its approach involves a judicious mix of appropriate responses, considering strategic interests, regional stability, international norms, and maintaining positive relations.

India’s role in mediating the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine includes advocating for peaceful and diplomatic resolutions, emphasizing dialogue, and negotiation to de-escalate tensions. Policy options for India involve effective mediation, even as the conflict competes for attention with other global events. India’s stance reflects a nuanced and balanced approach, considering its historical ties, strategic interests, and commitment to diplomatic solutions.

India’s emerging camaraderie with the US has assumed paramount importance, juxtaposed against Russia’s deepening alliance with China. While India and Russia maintain amicable relations, their geopolitical priorities have undergone a paradigm shift. In Russia’s case, India lacks common adversaries or partners, potentially leading to the slackening of their geopolitical ties. New Delhi’s relations with Moscow transcend arms trade, constituting a larger and more multifaceted relationship.

President Putin’s visit to India in December 2021 marked the rekindling of their commitment to a “special and privileged strategic partnership.” This signals a rebalancing of India-Russia relations, with the scales tipping decidedly in India’s favour. This shift is attributed to India’s burgeoning great power ambitions, concurrent with rapid economic development. However, it also underscores the challenges India faces amid this impressive growth. The key question revolves around Russia’s role in this new dynamic, given its commitment to a “no limits” partnership with China and simultaneous intent to preserve its multi-decade investment in the relationship with India.

New Delhi’s reluctance to overtly criticize the Russian invasion has enabled the preservation of historical ties with Moscow. As a significant member of the global south, India has been assiduously courted by both Russia and Ukraine since the war’s inception. India can play a pivotal role in halting this conflict, leveraging its credible diplomacy to maintain warm ties with Ukraine. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Ukrainian President Zelensky in May 2023, on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Japan, resulted in assurances that New Delhi would do “everything it can” to end the conflict. India can act as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine, facilitating crucial conversations, mitigating the humanitarian impact, and alleviating the economic damage inflicted on the global South. While India should avoid overestimating its influence, it should not shy away from presenting itself as an arbiter and asserting its ideas in a conflict far from home.

India’s Diplomatic Finesse and G20 Summit

India’s diplomatic finesse was on full display during the successfully organized G20 summit in September 2023. With its rising global profile and the current presidency of the G20, coupled with the support of the African Union, India can significantly contribute to ending the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Collaboration with the US, as iterated by its commitment to work with partners and allies worldwide, including India, is crucial. However, amid these efforts, India’s approach should align with its commitment to global peace, stability, and adherence to international norms. It must safeguard its strategic interests while fostering constructive relationships with all involved nations. Flexibility, diplomacy, and a commitment to peace are crucial elements in India’s response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, reaffirming its dedication to multilateral understanding.

India’s Role and Policy Options

India’s role in the conflict resolution involves addressing issues ranging from economic interests and trade to the mitigation of sanctions and the reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure. India can act as a mediator, supporting dialogue, promoting humanitarian initiatives, and contributing to rebuilding efforts in war-torn areas. The proposed policy options underscore India’s commitment to a rules-based international order and a peaceful, diplomatic resolution. They emphasise India’s role in facilitating dialogue, promoting humanitarian initiatives, and contributing to the rebuilding efforts in war-torn areas.

Final Thoughts

The Russia-Ukraine conflict carries profound implications for the global economy, food security, and the principles outlined in the United Nations Charter on sovereignty and territorial integrity. The disruption of supply chains and the escalation of prices in commodities like oil, gas, and food underscore the far-reaching consequences of the conflict. There is a consensus that there are no real winners in this conflict, emphasising the flouting of global norms and international rules.

India, as the flagbearer of peace, harmony, and stability, can play a pivotal role in strategising a Peace Summit. Drawing on its successful G20 presidency, India can initiate a draft resolution consensually agreed upon by likeminded nations, under the aegis of the UNSC. The aim would be to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and enduring peace between Russia and Ukraine

The major challenge lies in minimizing the damage, accepting compromises without compromising fundamental values, and untangling the knots of conflict for the greater good. The Ukrainians sought to negotiate an end to the protracted war in early March 2022, offering to accept neutrality. However, the Ukrainian government’s position hardened later in March 2022 when Russian atrocities came to light. The long war holds no advantages for Ukraine, and sustaining public support for the assistance it needs may prove a challenge for the West. The devastating consequences, including loss of lives, displacement, and ecological ruin, underscore the urgency of finding a sustainable solution.

India, as the flagbearer of peace, harmony, and stability, can play a pivotal role in strategising a Peace Summit. Drawing on its successful G20 presidency, India can initiate a draft resolution consensually agreed upon by likeminded nations, under the aegis of the UNSC. The aim would be to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and enduring peace between Russia and Ukraine. The scars of this conflict will persist for decades, serving as a sombre reminder of the cruelty and hatefulness of human actions. India, with its commitment to a better world, must lead the way in ensuring a future marked by peace, understanding, and enduring friendship among nations.

Read Part 1: https://raksha-anirveda.com/roots-of-the-strife/













-The writer is a military scholar. Presently, he is DG, Amity Institute of Defence & Strategic Studies). Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda