NBC in an article published on March 5 said while the world rallied to condemn Russia, India remained silent

Claim: At the United Nations, 141 counties voted for a resolution censuring Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, while four joined Russia in voting against the measure, and 35 abstained — including India and its two biggest geopolitical rivals, Pakistan and China.

India is maintaining its strategic autonomy in the case of Russia’s war on Ukraine. This is what India’s stand either at the UNSC or the UN shows. Underlying its position as a responsible international community member, India has been consistent in abstaining on resolutions against Russia. It has repeatedly been saying that diplomatic dialogue is the only way to resolve the Ukrainian crisis. It has been consistently avoiding being sucked into the whirlpool of war between Russia and Ukraine.

Moreover, given its situation when China-Pakistan nexus is sparing no moment to create a major problem for India at the border and away from it, New Delhi will ill afford to go against Russia which has warmed itself to both China and Pakistan in the recent past. Russia signed $2.5 billion natural gas pipeline project with Pakistan in 2021. Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to Moscow for a meeting even as Russia was busy in pounding Ukrainian cities and towns with missiles and bombs on February 25.

In this scenario, India has limited strategic options. It will do what suits its national interest. Safe evacuation of its nationals stranded in war-hit Ukraine remained its top priority. While pursuing its goal for safe airlifting of its nationals from the East European country, it steadfastly reiterated its commitment to the principles of the UN Charter, to international law and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states.

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India has relied on Moscow for military hardware and international political support for decades — a history that continues to guide its foreign policy to this day since some 60 percent of its military inventory is of Russian origin.

It is true that Russia is one of India’s largest arms suppliers. Around 23 per cent of Russian arms exports between 2016 and 2020 went to India. At the same time, it is also the fact that India is not completely dependent on Moscow for its military hardware. It has been rather purchasing defence equipment from the US, France, Israel and other countries.

According to the Defence Security Cooperation Agency, which is part of the US Department of Defence, India was the major buyer of American weapons in 2020. It purchased US $3.4 billion worth of defence equipment from the US in 2020, up from US $6.2 million in 2019. France, which is the current president of the Council of the European Union, was among the first to forge post Cold War strategic partnership with India. It exported a staggering 715 per cent of military hardware to India from 2015 to 2019. It included the purchase of 36 Rafale jets from France.

In any case, India’s military engagement with Russia is not a factor of major influence on the country’s foreign policy as has been portrayed in the western media. Instead, India has always maintained its autonomy in both foreign policy and strategic fronts. If Indo-Pacific is critical to its strategy to counter China in the region, so is Eurasia, because of increasing influence of China here. In recent years, it has engaged actively with the countries in Eurasia. Russia is an important cog in India’s move towards Eurasia.

Read this detail in The Diplomat: