by Asad Mirza
The last month has shown the tenacity and astuteness of the Indian foreign policy, and the “correctional change”, which the current polity is trying to achieve through it.
Last week saw a flurry of diplomatic activities in New Delhi, with quite a large number of foreign ministers and security advisers coming over to convince the Indian leadership to change its stand on the Russia-Ukraine war and support the western coalition against Russia.
The week also saw stern condemnation and accusation of the Indian stand by the US leaders and India responding in a befitting diplomatically astute manner. Before the arrival of the US Deputy NSA on Economics, Daleep Singh to India, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on March 30, urged nations to stand on the right side of history, and not fund, fuel and aid President Putin’s war.
On his part, Singh in his meetings with Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla, reportedly “cautioned India against enhancing ties with Moscow” and made it clear that India runs the risk of being caught up in a web of secondary sanctions if it tries to do business with Russia.
On Thursday, March 31, hours before Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov’s arrival, Singh told reporters in India that the US won’t like to see an increase in India’s imports from Russia particularly of energy products. He reportedly also warned that there would be “consequences” for countries, including India.
The Indian government considered these remarks and public threats raised as quite undiplomatic. Syed Akbaruddin, former Indian envoy to the UN, Tweeted that “This is not the language of diplomacy… This is the language of coercion… Somebody tell this young man that punitive unilateral economic measures are a breach of customary international law…”
Further, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar pointed out at a panel discussion with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, that Russian oil imports form a minuscule part of India’s energy basket, while the UK increased its already substantial purchase of Russian oil and gas between February and March – well after Moscow sent its forces into Ukraine.
Thus in a well-crafted response, the Indian government was able to show both the UK and the US their place. Both these countries were more concerned about the visit of the week i.e. of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to New Delhi.
The importance that Delhi attached to this visit was evident by the fact that of all foreign dignitaries visiting India, only Lavrov was able to meet Prime Minister Modi.
Concluded talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Discussed bilateral cooperation and developments in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iran, Indo-Pacific, ASEAN and the Indian sub-continent. pic.twitter.com/jAlrpol5Gt
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) April 1, 2022
On his part, Lavrov clearly put forward his message that he actively wants to develop the Russia-India-China trilateral mechanism to stabilise international relations and ensure “equity in international affairs”. He also described this relationship as our ‘troika’ – RIC (Russia, India, China).
Lavrov arrived in India from China. The takeaway from his Chinese visit could be summed up as the one, which seeks out establishing and accelerating multipolar trends. The US’s unipolar hegemony is being questioned by other nations every day and it has opened up many new proposals to reshape the world order. The close China-Russia cooperation can be described as the basis of this new multipolar world order.
China on April 1, lashed out at the United States for allegedly instigating the Russia-Ukraine conflict and blamed it for the expansion of NATO, the number of NATO members increased from 16 to 30 to protect itself from the aggression of any nation, according to Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.
Zhao further said that China disapproves of solving problems through sanctions, and is even more opposed to unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction that have no basis in international law.
On its part, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar after his meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in New Delhi on April 1, said that India has always been in favour of resolving disputes through diplomacy, in an obvious reference to both its border dispute with China and also in regard to the Russian-Ukraine war.
Jaishankar further stated that the contemporary global order was built on the United Nations Charter, international law and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.
On his part, Lavrov appreciated India’s principled stand and he even suggested India act as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine to resolve the ongoing crisis.
India’s changed stand
Conjoining the two, i.e. the references by Lavrov in China about a new multipolar world taking shape and India reiterating its stand on international comity, one can say that indeed the global map is due to be redrawn, and very soon we could be a witness to shaping-up of not a unipolar or a bipolar world, but a multipolar world. When that takes shape the manner in which global issues are resolved or heightened will change completely and dramatically. Added to this will be the lessening of the American control over global political play.
Further, India’s balanced and principled stand has shown the world maturity of its foreign policy, besides the role which it could play in the international diplomatic arena, all as a result of the foreign policy team led by S Jaishankar under the stewardship of PM Modi. It has also underlined the fact that India is not ready to be cowed down by the US bullying and will chart its own path, as per its policies and need of the hour. This also points out the “correctional change”, which the Indian polity has been able to make in its foreign policy.
(Asad Mirza is a senior journalist based in New Delhi. In his career spanning more than 20 years, he was also associated with BBC Urdu Service and Khaleej Times of Dubai. Views are personal.)