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Korybko To The Hindu: Your Editorial Won’t Change India’s Principled Neutrality
The Hindu’s editorial implies that India is behaving very hypocritically, with the innuendo being that nobody can take it seriously as a result. The reality is the opposite, however. There’s a more urgent need for truly neutral players nowadays than ever before considering how intense the New Cold War has become.
The Hindu, which is one of India’s most popular and well-respected newspapers, published an editorial on their country’s principled neutrality towards the Ukrainian Conflict. Titled “Neutrality and abstention: On India’s stand in the Russia-Ukraine conflict”, it concisely makes the case that India’s soft power interests are best served by voting against its special and privileged Russian partner at the UN. The first paragraph shares background facts while the second puts forth their argument, which is as follows:
“Over the past seven months, the war and western sanctions have had a dramatic impact on global security, food, fuel and energy supplies, and it is important to keep the lines of communication open, as Mr. Modi has done, with Mr. Putin and Mr. Zelenskyy. India has an established record in global peacemaking. However, New Delhi can only play that part if it also sets out its position more clearly, and links it to its actions on the global stage.
The Government’s defiance of western sanctions on oil and defence trade is understandable in terms of defending India’s national interests. However, it is harder to correlate Mr. Modi’s comments, and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s remarks, on adherence to the UN charter and the importance of protecting territorial sovereignty while India continues to abstain on all votes that criticise Russia’s actions in Ukraine: including the bombing of civilians, and the annexation of occupied territories.”
The Hindu’s editorial therefore implies that India is behaving very hypocritically, with the innuendo being that nobody can take it seriously as a result. The reality is the opposite, however. There’s a more urgent need for truly neutral players nowadays than ever before considering how intense the New Cold War has become, especially after President Putin’s revolutionary manifesto from 30 September. By abstaining from the vote in question, India reaffirmed its neutral credentials instead of eroded them.
The global systemic transition to multipolarity is rapidly evolving from its present bi-multipolar intermediary phase towards tripolarity and ultimately complex multipolarity (“multiplexity”) a lot quicker than anyone expected. This is the direct result of India decisively intervening to become Russia’s alternative valve from Western pressure in order to preemptively avert its potentially disproportionate dependence on China, thus setting into motion a chain reaction of grand strategic consequences.
This pivotally includes derailing the superpower trajectory that the People’s Republic was hitherto on, which had thus far exacerbated tensions between these Asian Great Powers. The emerging outcome is that bi-multipolarity, which would have otherwise been entrenched as the status quo for the indefinite future and thus greatly limited the strategic autonomy of all international players apart from the American and Chinese superpowers, might be as short-lived as the unipolar moment that preceded it.
None of this would have been possible had India taken the declining US hegemon’s side against Russia. That scenario would have compelled Moscow to submit to becoming Beijing’s “junior partner” out of desperation for relief from Western pressure regardless of the costs to its strategic autonomy, which in turn would have prompted Delhi to follow suit vis a vis Washington in an equally desperate attempt to restore a semblance of strategic balance with respect to its northern superpower-aspiring neighbor.
That strengthening of bi-multipolarity didn’t come to pass due to India’s principled neutrality providing an alternative vale from Western pressure for Russia that preemptively averted this scenario. If Delhi abruptly decided to abandon its existing policy in favor of taking Washington’s side against Moscow, then its special and privileged strategic partner would be forced into Beijing’s arms on the latter’s terms, thus restoring its superpower trajectory and exacerbating already dangerous Sino-Indo tensions.
Far from discrediting itself through its supposedly hypocritical abstention from the latest UN vote, India maintained its trajectory as a rising Great Power with unique influence over the global systemic transition. It should be remembered that while many countries previously voted against Russia, no Global South state followed through by sanctioning it, which proves their own imperfect but nevertheless still discernable policy of principled neutrality towards the Ukrainian Conflict as well.
What’s missing from the grand strategic equation is a truly neutral Great Power around which comparatively medium- and smaller-sized ones can gather in assembling a new Non-Aligned Movement (“Neo-NAM”) for collectively maximizing their strategic autonomy throughout the systemic transition. India arguably aspires to play this irreplaceable role, which China can’t due to the Sino-American dimension of the New Cold War, nor can the US due to its global rivalry with that country and Russia.
These interconnected calculations account for India’s supposed hypocrisy that The Hindu critiqued in its editorial. With this insight in mind, it’s clear that Delhi won’t recalibrate its grand strategic trajectory like that paper suggested since doing so would be detrimental to its objective national interests, essentially amounting to unacceptable unilateral concessions that would doom it to becoming the declining unipolar hegemon’s “junior partner”. For this reason, the Hindu’s editorial won’t change India’s policy.