Why India Is The Biggest Gainer From Russia-Ukraine War

Ujjawal Mishra

Sep 21, 2022, 07:43 PM | Updated 07:43 PM IST

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden.

The geopolitical space now is such that India has ample space to navigate — and to grow further on the global stage.

Advantage India: When the Russia-Ukraine war began, China was seen as the biggest beneficiary. But now, the evidence points to a new and bigger beneficiary — India.

  • This is because India doesn't have to choose between the Sino-Russian axis and the US-led grouping.

  • India now has more policy leeway in geopolitics and economics than before.

Geopolitical juncture: India has become the tilting factor in east-west Asian and Indo-Pacific geopolitics.

  • Both the US and the Russia-China axis have realised that India needs to be wooed.

  • India can retain its military relationship with Russia even as it builds trade and military ties with the US.

  • India can’t tilt away from Russia, for the last thing it needs is a China-Russia-Pakistan alliance ranged against it.

  • Russia wouldn't abandon India, either, as Putin would lose all leverage if he becomes wholly subservient to China in the global power game.

China's misadventures are finally hurting its interests.

  • Its embrace of Russia has strengthened US commitment to providing Taiwan with more military and diplomatic backing.

  • President Joe Biden has said, not once but twice, that the US will back Taiwan in the case of a conflict.

  • Whether it is Biden's statement or Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent Taiwan visit, Taiwan has global support like never before.

This means two things for India. China has to worry about Taiwan more than its border dispute with India. And, with a weakening economy, it cannot think of launching an offensive anywhere.

  • India has already shown its capacity to give the Chinese a bloody nose.

  • Russia’s failure to march to a quick victory in Ukraine also gives China a cause for pause on Taiwan.

  • The remaining frenemies of China in the Indo-Pacific (Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan) must have noted that China has not managed any military success despite threatening talk.

Balancing US pressure. As long as India manages the Russian relationship well, its access to military hardware and cheap fuel is a useful counterweight to US pressure and West Asian oil dependence.

  • With Iran now leaning towards Russia, importing Russian oil and gas through Iranian ports will also become an option in due course.

Rewriting the world order. How the world is shaping up will be to India's benefit.

  • Europe is in turmoil, with Russian gas gone and inflation going through the roof.

  • The net result of this winter’s European discontent will be a new security policy in Europe that will be less US-dependent.

  • With France being a nuclear power and Germany spending a large amount on defence, the European landscape is changing fast.

  • At some point, after the Ukraine war ends, Europe will have to mend fences with Russia, and Russia will be seen as a counterweight to Germany.

  • The new European security architecture, which will be created with Russia in it, will focus on Eurasia and not just western Europe.

  • This is good for India, as it will counter-balance the Chinese threat in central Asia, which is land-linked to Pakistan.  

All eyes on India. Thanks to India’s effective Covid-19 management, especially macroeconomy, Modi has put India in a good place.

  • Both geopolitically and economically, India is a rising power and it has options that are looking better every day.

  • If at some point, with support from France, Germany, and Japan, India can broker a deal to end the Ukraine war in return for Western support to rebuild the devastated country, India will be the flavour of the decade.

  • The G20 Summit next year, to be presided over by India, will mark the beginning of this shift in how the world sees India.

Adapted from R Jagannathan's article.

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