How Jaishankar defended the India way this year amid Ukraine conflict

Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, India has emphasised the need for diplomacy and dialogue while defending its independent stand, which prioritizes the country's energy and food security.

Updated14 Dec 2022
External Minister S. Jaishankar (file photo)
External Minister S. Jaishankar (file photo)

Throughout this year, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar clearly spelt out India's position on the Ukraine conflict, standing firm on the principal-based stance amid the war that is causing serious global implications.

Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war on February 24, India has emphasised the need for diplomacy and dialogue while defending its independent stand, which prioritizes the country's energy and food security.

When Moscow started its large-scale military build-up near its border areas before the start of the war, some drew parallels between the situation in Ukraine and India-China border issue.

At the Munich Security Conference (MSC) on February 19, Jaishankar dismissed such comparison between Indo-Pacific and Transatlantic regions, saying that the situations are not analogous and the two arenas pose distinct challenges.

"...That somehow there is a trade-off. One country does this in the Pacific so in return, you do something else. I don't think that's the way international relations work," the minister said in front of the members present at the annual conference on international security policy in Munich.

He added, "...if there was a connection, by that logic, you would have had a lot of European powers, very early, taking a very sharp position in the Indo-Pacific. But we didn't see that."

Less than two months later the Biden administration hosted India for the fourth 2 2 Ministerial Dialogue in Washington in April. As the Ukraine conflict had entered its second week, Jaishankar was asked why India is not condemning Russia for the war in Ukraine and increasing oil imports.

To this, EAM answered, "I prefer to do it my way and articulate it my way."

"If you are looking at energy purchases from Russia. I would suggest your attention should be focused on Europe. We do some energy which is necessary for our energy security but I suspect our total purchases in a month is equal to what Europe does in an afternoon," he remarked.

Standing beside US State Secretary Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, the external affairs minister told a reporter that the Indian government is watching what's happening in the world and drawing its own conclusion.

Again, in June this year, questions were raised on increasing oil imports from Russia, at the GLOBSEC Bratislava Security Conference in the Slovak Republic. Here too, fingers were pointed toward India's purchase of Russian oil amid western sanctions.

Clearly defining Indian position on energy imports, Jaishankar said India doesn't send people out there to especially buy Russian oil. "We send people out there and say go buy oil. Now you buy the best oil you can in the market. So, I don't think, I would attach a political messaging to that," he said.

Furthermore, he said, "...Tell me if buying Russian gas is not funding the war. Why is only Indian money and oil coming to India that funds and not gas coming to Europe? Let's be a little even handed out here."

In response to the erroneous framing of the question, Jaishankar even said Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe's problem is the world's problem but the world's problems are not Europe's problem.

He also dismissed the connection between the Ukraine conflict and the India-China issue. "China and India happened way before anything happened in Ukraine. ...I see this, frankly not a very clever argument, a self-serving one."

He disagreed with the construct that a choice has to be made between US and China. The minister pointed out that said India's grand strategy will not be a choice between the two powers but based on weighing the situation on every matter.

Earlier this month, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock paid a three-day visit to India on her first official trip that focused on the climate crisis and preserving the rules-based order.

During Baerbock's joint press conference with EAM Jaishankar in New Delhi, a visiting journalist raised a question on the import of Russian oil and asked "will Indian change its attitude?"

Pointing out recent import figures of India which paled in comparison to Europe, Jaishankar emphasized that Europe will make the choices it will make, however, for the bloc to make choices that prioritize its energy needs and then ask India to do something else, is not fair.

Summing up Latest Developments in India's Foreign Policy this month, Jaishankar delivered a statement in Rajya Sabha on the heels of India's assumption of the G20 Presidency.

Amid geopolitical crisis, food and energy insecurity, mounting debt and challenges to climate action, he said the Modi government's endeavour is to build consensus within the G20, and champion causes especially of the Global South.

Addressing the Parliament, the minister said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government envisages the G20 Presidency as an occasion to showcase India to the world.

He emphasized that said India's foreign policy today is no longer just an exercise of a Ministry or even simply that of the Government. "It has a direct impact on the daily lives of all Indians."

The external affairs minister said the government's aim in a difficult global situation is that the welfare of the Indian people is ensured, however challenging the circumstances. "Indian foreign policy is there to serve the Indian people; we will do whatever it takes to discharge that responsibility," he added. 

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