Behind India’s repeated abstentions against Russia at the UN, the legacy of past policies

Amid ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine, India has abstained from a US-sponsored United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution that deplores Russia’s actions in the strongest terms. Explaining his abstention, India’s permanent representative to the UN, TS Tirumurti, said: “India is deeply troubled by the recent turn of events in Ukraine.

“Dialogue is the only answer to settling disputes and disputes, as daunting as that may seem right now. It is regrettable that the path of diplomacy has been abandoned. We have to come back to it. For all these reasons, India chose to abstain on this resolution,” Tirumurti said.

While Russia was expected to veto the resolution, China and the United Arab Emirates also abstained in the vote. The remaining 11 UNSC members voted in favor of the resolution.

India’s abstention is explained by experts as a balancing act aimed at maintaining friends and partners on both sides. It is also a legacy of Nehruvian’s non-aligned foreign policy and how the two countries interacted with each other within the United Nations.

India’s tilt towards the Soviet Union

After independence, India maintained a neutral stance in a bipolar world by following the policy of non-alignment. The Non-Alignment Movement or NAM is a group of 120 countries in the developing world that have not aligned themselves with any major power bloc. The movement was created in 1961 on the initiative of Jawaharlal Nehru with the leaders of Yugoslavia, Egypt, Ghana and Indonesia. Despite the official policy of non-alignment, a slight tilt towards the Soviet Union was noticeable during this period.

Professors Sanjay Kumar Pandey and Ankur Yadav in a 2018 research paper have suggested that the underpinnings of India’s affinity with the Soviet Union can be explained by the profound impact that socialist and Marxist ideas had on many leaders of the freedom struggle. “The ideological bent of Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, the formation of the Socialist Republican Association/Army and India’s embrace of socialism and state planning testify to the relevance of socialist ideas and the ‘Soviet Union in India’s Post-Independence History.’ they write.

The growing closeness between the United States and Pakistan has often been cited as another reason why India is seeking closer ties with the Soviet Union. “The real foundation of the relationship was laid during Nehru’s visit to the Soviet Union in 1955 and the return visit of Soviet leaders Khrushchev and Bulganin,” write Pandey and Yadav. Since the 1950s, the Soviet Union has been closely involved in India’s industrial development, including the construction of the Bhilai and Bokaro steelworks and the establishment of public sector enterprises such as Bharat Heavy Electronics Limited (BHEL ) and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).

The war between India and China in the 1960s and the deterioration of Sino-Soviet relations during the same period brought the two countries closer, culminating in the signing of the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation of 1971. The treaty was to form the basis of the cooperation offered by the Soviets in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which was crucial to securing India’s victory.

India’s relations with the Russians suffered a downturn following the collapse of the Soviet Union. On the one hand, the Russians have realized the need to establish close relations with the United States to rebuild themselves economically and politically. On the other hand, with the liberalization reforms in the early 1990s, India’s ideological positioning also experienced a change.

By the mid-1990s, however, as hopes of Western help remained dim for Russia, the latter again warmed to India. In January 1993, when Russian President Boris Yeltsin visited India, he claimed that the two countries had ended their prolonged hiatus. Over the following years, several treaties and agreements were signed between the two countries establishing commercial, diplomatic, military, industrial, scientific and technological cooperation. India is currently the second largest market for the Russian defense industry. We know that nearly 70% of Indian military equipment is imported from Russia.

Pandey and Yadav in their article suggest that the joint declarations and agreements between India and Russia show that on a number of global and regional issues, the two countries have broadly similar positions. “India and Russia are together to promote a multi-polar global system based on the predominant role of the UN and international law, common interest, equality, mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs. countries,” they write.

India and Russia at the United Nations

India’s inclination towards Russia has been evident in the way the two countries have interacted with each other within the United Nations. In an ORF article written by Aparajita Das in 2017 titled, ‘A fine balance: India’s voting record at the UNGA’the author writes that in the 69 years since India’s independence, it was only for four years – 1946, 1948, 1950 and 1962 – that India’s voting patterns at the United Nations adhered more closely to those of the United States than to those of the USSR or the Soviet Union. Russian Federation.

“It had not so much to do with the Soviet Union as it had to do with ideologies like anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-apartheid, pro-Palestine, which were fundamental for non-aligned countries. These are the same values ​​that the Soviet bloc also endorsed,” says TP Sreenivasan, India’s former deputy permanent representative to the UN in New York. Das in his article writes that the tilt towards the Soviet Union was probably, in part, due to “to the shared status of India and the states of the former USSR as economically developing countries, rather than any inherent ideological affinity.”

From the 1970s, India moved closer to the Soviet Union and away from the United States. India supported the Soviet Union or abstained from voting on a number of issues: the Czechoslovak intervention of 1968 or the invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Speaking of India’s abstention in the vote against invading Afghanistan, Sreenivasan says the sentiment inside Indian political halls was to oppose the Soviet Union, including that of Prime Minister Charan Singh. However, it was Indira Gandhi who strongly supported the Soviet Union, resulting in India’s abstention from the UNGA at a time when all other non-aligned countries as well as Western powers had voted against.

At the same time, India has benefited from the Russian veto on several occasions. The Soviet Union was the only country to veto UN Security Council resolutions against UN interventions in Kashmir in 1957, 1962 and 1971. “In fact, India’s friendship with the Soviet Union began in 1955 when Nikita Khrushchev (Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) came to Kashmir and declared it to be part of India,” says Sreenivasan. Khrushchev is famous for saying: “We are so close that if you ever call us from the top of the mountains, we will appear at your side. “That no other country has ever said. Even our best friends have suggested that India and Pakistan should settle the issue between themselves,” says Sreenivasan. its stance in arguing that the Kashmir issue should be resolved through bilateral dialogue.”

Another instance where the Russian veto helped India was during the Goa liberation movement in 1961. The United States, United Kingdom, France and Turkey proposed a resolution at the United Nations condemning the Indian invasion in Goa and asking the country to withdraw its forces. The Soviet Union’s veto destroyed the resolution. Writing about Russia’s support for India in the Goa case, historian SR Sharma in his book India-USSR Relations (Volume 1) states: “The (Russian) veto saved India from a very delicate when the West was determined to obtain a ceasefire. and the withdrawal resolution adopted in the Security Council.

The Russian veto was once again crucial in determining India’s victory in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. The United States had passed a resolution in the Security Council demanding a ceasefire and the withdrawal of armed forces of India and Pakistan. The Russians had once again vetoed the resolution, allowing India to continue fighting for the cause, which ultimately led to the liberation of Bangladesh.

Sreenivasan says that despite the obvious affinity between the two countries at the UN, there are also several differences to remember. On a number of other issues, the Soviet Union also clashed with India, the most important of which was when India decided to test nuclear weapons in 1974. We were also not in favor of violating the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” Sreenivasan said. Consequently, India and the Soviet Union diverged on their vote on disarmament issues.

Another issue that the Soviet Union was fiercely opposed to was the expansion of the Security Council. Indian Ambassador to the UN Brijesh Mishra proposed expanding the non-permanent members of the Security Council in 1979, which the Soviet Union also opposed along with the other four permanent members. On the other hand, India opposes the Soviets on the question of collective security in Asia.

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