India continues to balance deftly in the international arena. More than a year after the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, it is applying its new “multilateralism” diplomatic principle, developed by its foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. Under the leadership of this brilliant career diplomat and capable aide to the Prime Minister, India is abandoning its tradition of non-alignment in favor of a vision of a foreign policy entirely dictated by the national interest. By Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s own admission, the South Asian giant’s many commitments to its “partners” are related to “identifying and exploiting the opportunities created by global contradictions.” A strategy in the service of Indian power, supported by Modi-promoted Hindu nationalism.
In the conditions of the war in Ukraine, India managed to maintain good relations with both sides. Historically close to Moscow, its main supplier of military equipment, in recent years it has deepened its partnership with the US and Europe in the Indo-Pacific region to counter growing Chinese influence.
Despite pressure from the West, New Delhi has never openly condemned Russian aggression and has systematically abstained from voting on the issue at the UN. This did not stop Narendra Modi from telling Russian President Vladimir Putin that “the time has come [n’était] not to fight”, in September 2022
Russian oil at a discount
Thanks to this acrobatic strategy, New Delhi manages to get out of the game for a while. Taking advantage of the embargo imposed on Moscow by the Europeans and the Americans, India, which is 85% dependent on imports to satisfy its black gold, buys Russian oil at a discount. Moscow is now India’s main supplier of crude oil, producing more than a quarter of its imports in January, compared to less than 1% before the war.
But if New Delhi, in populist logic, focuses on the benefits that can be drawn from the situation, then this is also part of the European strategy: to damage the Russian receipts that finance the war, while avoiding an oil shock. “Indian refineries buy crude oil from Russia, then refine it and resell it to Europe and America,” says Vibhuti Garg, director of South Asia at the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. really trying to meet the demand of his people.” India shipped about 89,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel per day to the US in January, Kpler said, a record in almost four years.
However, the South Asian giant is not immune to the economic consequences of the war. “In general, there will be more negative than positive,” warns Dharmakirti Joshi, chief economist at Crisil. Prices for fertilizers, edible oil and raw materials have risen sharply since the start of the conflict. Over the past twelve months, inflation has generally exceeded 6%.
“Today India stands out as one of the few countries that can still talk to both sides”
While its position of neutrality seemed untenable at the start of the war, India was able to navigate geopolitics at the cost of a certain amount of cynicism. “New Delhi has been able to take a unique place in the international system and demonstrate its strategic autonomy and decision-making independence,” said Harsh Pant, vice president of the New Delhi-based think tank Observer Research Foundation.
At the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi on March 2, several European diplomats praised India’s efforts to bring people together as the war in Ukraine overshadowed all discussions, preventing a joint press release from being issued. “Today, India seems to be one of the few countries that can still talk to both sides and is perceived as impartial, unlike states like China,” said Harsh Pant. An asset for this country that dreams of having more influence in the international arena.