To defend closer ties with Modi’s India – POLITICO
Press play to listen to this article
James Snell is a writer and researcher. He has written for Spectator World, Foreign Policy and other media.
The democratic world is disunited.
More or less shrewdly concealed, disagreements over the fate of Ukraine are emerging almost weekly among NATO members, and in Asia and the Pacific, democracies theoretically hold together. While all finally appreciate and are ready to counter the threat to peace posed by a newly belligerent China, in practice the diplomacy between them is still, in part, a broadcast of grievances decades or centuries old. Especially when it comes to India.
India and Narendra Modi’s government remain an unknown quantity, viewed with suspicion from Europe. Even with the country now a member of the Quad – a group comprising the United States, Australia and Japan, designed to align Indo-Pacific democracies against Beijing – and the European Commission establishing a Joint European Union-India Council on Trade and technology at the end of April, the agreement does not always reign.
To hear some European officials say it, one would think that India is on par with China when it comes to helping Russia deal with its new pariah status. But despite conflicting visions, this is simply not the case. He neglects the importance of forming closer bonds, even if it is difficult.
During her trip to New Delhi in April, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said optimistically that EU-India cooperation on green energy could prove vital to Europe’s escape from the stranglehold. Russian oil and gas. Meanwhile, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar simply said that he and von der Leyen “exchanged views on the economic and political implications of the conflict in Ukraine”.
What he omitted is more significant.
Like Europe, India has long purchased much of its natural gas and some of its oil from Russia. But unlike Europe, India has shown little inclination to switch suppliers.
On the contrary, India has significantly increased its oil imports from Russia since the start of the war. In January, Russia was the country’s ninth largest source of oil, and now, according to some analysts, it is the second. It is not a subversion of the global sanctions regime, but rather a basic economy. India is estimated to be buying Russian crude at what amounts to a significant reduction in the world price of oil.
It is a conflict of visions. European leaders are seriously debating whether their populations will tolerate small economic sacrifices to sanction Russia. Indian leaders do not believe that its already struggling people should have to make such sacrifices. Thus, while European leaders have announced a desire – however slow and cumbersome – to escape Russian energy monopolies, India has no such intention.
Some of this is also historical. India – especially with a nationalist government – cannot forgive white countries or follow their orders so easily. It’s been said in Indian newspapers and on social media that one colonial power is very much like another, and if it’s Ukraine’s turn to suffer, that’s a real shame.
A recent editorial in one of India’s largest English newspapers, The Hindu, lays out the most political perspective: that peace is better than war – and better for business – and that Russia carries the essentials (but in not all) of the responsibility to ensure the peace. The sanctions imposed by NATO have failed to crush the Russian economy and perhaps should also be reconsidered. There is no need for other savings to join the load.
In a war that consists of preventing the resurgence of wars of conquest, Europeans are not entirely wrong to think that this spirit is somewhat limited and uncooperative.
However, at least a small chunk of European and American distrust of India has long since passed – a remnant of a Cold War in which the country was considered too left-wing economically to be entirely outside the Soviet sphere, and in which – incredibly – Pakistan was seen as a more reliable and friendly ally.
These disagreements, especially over matters of history, are more emotional than practical, and they can be overcome. Despite its ideological disagreements with Western Europe and the United States, under Modi, India wants to establish closer ties with Europe. And common sense will not allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to stand in his way.
If India refrains from openly acknowledging Putin’s war as legitimate and manages to avoid overt sanctions, the friendly coexistence and growing economic proximity between it and Europe can continue.
But even if tensions are easing on the Ukrainian question, other problems remain. Modi is a nationalist at a time when European elites are increasingly repelled by this style of politics. His hostility to India’s Muslim minority has buoyed Europe from the moment he seemed likely to win power, and European leaders have seen little in the years since to change their minds. ‘notice.
European and American liberals have even increasingly cast Modi alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as, at best, an equally destructive and out-of-control ally or, at worst, labeled him and India as part of an “authoritarian” and “post-liberal” regime. wave sweeping the world.
Certainly, under Modi, India enjoyed good relations with Putin’s Russia and, no doubt, could benefit in some way from the relative decline of Europe and the United States. But there are limits.
Some analysts have gone overboard, seeming to suggest – wrongly – that there are positives to be found for India in the “multipolar” world of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s design.
It’s too hasty. After all, China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road seems designed not only to circle India, but also to cut it off from a new breed of global trade, designed with China at its heart. They can also read these cards in New Delhi.
So, as von der Leyen argues, cooperation — even talking to each other — is better than Europe keeping its distance.
Although Modi’s India is unlikely to be made to agree with the Europeans on Ukraine, as long as it doesn’t – unusually – come to Russia’s aid, it won’t. It is neither in India’s interest nor in its history to abandon Europe in favor of a shrinking, extractive economy and a sick tyrant.
And if Russia is driven – in part by European efforts – to lose its war, Indian ambivalence can hardly overcome this fact.