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Non-Alignment: An analysis of India’s decision to support Russia in the Crimean Crisis

By Mayank Goel

Soon after Vladimir Putin’s much publicized diplomatic phone call to Manmohan Singh, India official declared support to Russia in the conflict with Ukraine and the Western powers. By this, India effectively put out that it views Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a legitimate move under the ambit of international conventions. The first question that came into the minds of people aware of India’s historical position in international relations was regarding its much-touted principle of non-alignment. Although much speculation was still there, during the Cold War, of India tilting towards the Soviet, on paper and much more perceptibly in the United Nations, India has been more or less neutral on which major block it belongs to.

There has to be a major benefit accruing from a move where the cost is a nation abandoning one of the long-standing aspects of its foreign policy. But the question pertains to what the possible benefit could be amidst the pandemonium?

Let us first look at the legitimacy of Russia’s claim that Crimea should be an integral part of it, something India’s seems to buy. Digging into the Soviet history, we see that Crimea was an integral part of the Soviet Union until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev took the much hasty decision of giving Crimea away to Ukraine as a ‘diplomatic gift’; much did he know that the Soviet Union would disintegrate a few decades later. This move, implemented by Khrushchev in a matter of minutes, was widely criticized especially and continues to be berated, especially by Russian supporters today. Russia holds that most of the population in Crimea is ethnically Russian (considering also the exile of the indigenous Tatars by Stalin) and Crimea has been an integral part of Soviet history. Crimea being a picturesque destination was an escape for Soviet officials from the cold Moscow weather when the Party would award them with a luxurious summer vacation. Being relatively calm and cheery, in contrast with the cold and hostile atmosphere of Soviet Russia, Crimea was a boiling pot for a significant amount of Russian art and culture. Given all these factors, it is hard to deny that Russia has a connect with the Crimean people, something it uses to justify its flouting of international norms of sovereignty.

Coming back to India we see that India’s supports to Russia is not completely unfounded in terms of the rationale behind Russia’s claim. The next important consideration is though whether the apparent uproar of the West is something that can hurt India’s interests while it stands next to Russia. Although, even after complete militarization of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Army, the best that the western forces do is mere political sanctions, especially when a hitherto trigger happy country like USA is in the fray, and this signifies a lack of strength by directly affected parties and a somewhat lack of interest by their allies. Considering the same turn of events in the case of South Ossetia, it seems that the westerns forces are apprehensive of moving beyond ‘sanctions’. Given these conditions, Russia seems a probable winner and realism dictates sticking with the winner.

But the dilution of ideology, is something which makes a country look watery in its standing in the international arena. Is India going to be on the other side as Western powers or does their poor economic state force them to accept countries like India, even as supporters of Putin?

We can only see how the international theater plays out.

Mayank Goel is a second year student at SRCC pursuing B.Com(H). But his interests stretch way off from his college-course combination. Coming from a family of artists and journalists, he has been an amateur drummer for a long period of time (long enough for someone to move on from amateur). He has a keen interest in subjects like economics, behavioral economics and even philosophy and psychology. Although open to opinions, he can spend hours on frivolous talk just to win an argument.

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