India cannot take anyone’s side in this dispute. Doing so would be contradictory to its grand strategic goals.
India expressed a very balanced position towards the undeclared US–provoked missile crisis in Europe on Friday. Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Arindam Bagchi said in response to a relevant question that “We have been closely following the developments relating to Ukraine, including the ongoing high-level discussions between Russia and the US. Our Embassy in Kyiv is also monitoring local developments. We call for a peaceful resolution of the situation through sustained diplomatic efforts for long-term peace and stability in the region and beyond.”
This approach hints that India has a deep understanding of the current crisis and its dynamics. It’s not so much a Russian-Ukrainian territorial one like the US-led Western Mainstream Media misportrays it as, but a Russian-US missile crisis. Moscow is concerned that Washington will deploy strike weapons, including hypersonic ones, to the region and even potentially to Ukraine under the pretext of defending the latter in the event that Kiev provokes a third round of civil war hostilities in Donbass or a false-flag attack is carried out to that effect by Western intelligence.
Moreover, Russian intelligence suspects that these arms could enter the region under the cover of being so-called “anti-missile systems”. That explains why the Eurasian Great Power immediately pressed for a diplomatic resolution to this crisis through the publication of its security guarantee requests in late December that form the basis for its ongoing negotiations with the US. Russia is India’s special and privileged strategic partner but the South Asian state has also recently cultivated extremely close ties with the US in spite of complications in their relationship over the past 18 months.
This explains why New Delhi is taking such a pragmatic position towards the European missile crisis. It doesn’t want to be seen as supporting one side over the other, especially not at Ukraine’s expense since it also has close relations with that country too. India’s 21st-century grand strategy is to present itself as a neutral balancing force for third countries to turn towards for relief from the political pressures put upon them in the New Cold War by the American and Chinese superpowers. It also envisions jointly assembling a new Non-Aligned Movement (“Neo-NAM”) with Russia to this end as well.
India therefore cannot take anyone’s side in this dispute. Doing so would be contradictory to its grand strategic goals. The best that all observers can hope for has already happened, and that’s the country expressing a balanced and pragmatic position in response to recent events. India cannot afford to be seen as a partisan player, unless of course it concerns matters that are directly relevant to its national security such as the disputes that it’s embroiled in with China and Pakistan. Those notable exceptions aside, India will always take a neutral stance towards regional tensions.