Status: [[Brewing]] **What position should New Delhi take over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the strategic conflict between the West and Russia?** 1. Growth, development and prosperity is India's primary interest. This requires an open global economy and a stable world order that is conducive to India's values, interests and positions. 1. Engagement with the West, preferably within a multilateral framework, is necessary for growth & development. 2. Engagement with Russia and other non-Western G-20 countries is highly desirable to ensure a balanced world order. 2. The Ukraine war reveals India's continued dependency on Russian defence equipment and how that dependency circumscribes New Delhi's strategic autonomy. 1. For decades, India's defence policy has aimed for indigenization, with very limited success. This has been the Achilles' heel of strategic autonomy. Even small arms are imported or produced in India under license. 2. Incapability of public sector defence units and political economy of procurement has allowed Russian technology to persist, even under the umbrella of indigenization. 3. Strategic autonomy requires diversification and a strategic approach to defence supply chains. This is a key lesson from the Ukraine moment. 3. India's interests in this conflict lie with the West. 1. Even before the crisis, Russia was China's ally. Whoever 'wins' in Ukraine, Russia will be even more dependent on China. As the Arthashastra tells us, an adversary's ally is an adversary. 2. The Russian Federation is not the Soviet Union. Soviet policies that favoured India in the 1970s cannot translate into gratitude towards Russia. Moscow supported sanctions against India after the 1998 nuclear tests. In recent years, Moscow has sided with Pakistan and China over Afghanistan. 3. In the event of a future military conflict with China, it will be risky to presume Russia will take our side. 4. Similarly, in the event of a conflict with China, it will be risky to presume the West will take our side; especially after India's neutrality in the Ukrainian conflict that the West sees as core to its interests. 5. India's negotiating power with the West will precipitously decline after Ukraine conflict ends. If the West wins despite India's neutrality, then New Delhi would have proved its redundancy. If the West loses, then India's neutrality will be seen as wilful refusal to assist despite the existence of a strategic partnership. 6. At this time (2022-03-14), it is highly likely that Russia will lose this war even if it is militarily successful in Ukraine. India's neutrality is unlikely to shape or change the outcome. 7. Russia, with or without Putin, is not in a position to deny arms exports to India, its biggest customer. If they do, New Delhi can turn to the global markets. 8. "Do not join a losing team" is good advice in both sports and geopolitics. 4. India's recovery in the post-pandemic, post-Ukraine global economy requires excellent relations with the West 1. In the absence of effective multilateral institutions such as WTO and even the G-20, bilateral relations are very important. India's biggest industries are connected to Western and Indo-Pacific economies. 2. India is not part of RCEP and other preferential trade arrangements. This increases the relevance of good bilateral ties with major trading partners. 3. Access to technology -- from semiconductors to algorithms -- is the currency of economic power in the information age. India cannot afford to be outside the circle of countries that have access to the tech ecosystem. 5. Strategic autonomy must be employed to promote the national interest. 1. Strategic autonomy is the ability to take positions that are in the national interest. If we determine that our national interest lies in taking sides with the West, then strategic autonomy ought to enable it. 2. Taking sides with the West over Ukraine does not mean India "joins the Western camp". Nor does it mean India must extend military support to Ukraine, NATO or anyone else. 6. An escalation/expansion of the war will further damage India's growth and development prospects. 1. India has little influence over Russian policy. 2. New Delhi will be in a better position to shape the war and post-war scenarios if it cooperates with the US and NATO than otherwise. ### Related - There is a vigorous ongoing debate at Takshashila on this issue. You can follow it ove at the [Unredacted notes]( - My recommendations on [[On improving India-Russia relations]] at a seminar conducted just before Russia invaded Ukraine.