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India needs Russian weapons and oil but it also needs healthy relations with the West. It can’t have both.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, raging for well-over 500 days now, has not only wreaked havoc in Ukraine but has also sent shockwaves around the globe, reshaping complex international alliances. India, with its historic ties to Russia and burgeoning partnership with the U.S., finds itself navigating a diplomatic tightrope, as it grapples with maintaining relations with both superpowers.

New Delhi has a long history of ties with Russia, tracing back to the days of the Soviet Union. The enduring partnership extends across defense, cultural exchanges, and energy sectors. Russia remains a key supplier of military hardware and crude oil, and the two countries continue to cooperate on various global issues, such as counter-terrorism and regional stability.

However, Russia’s unprovoked and bloody invasion of Ukraine has thrown a wrench in the relationship. The U.S. and other Western powers’ logistical support for Ukraine has led India to a calculated stance. India has chosen neither to openly condemn nor fully endorse Russia’s actions in Ukraine. While India upholds the principles of non-alignment and non-interference, it has underscored the importance of peaceful, constructive dialogue to resolve the crisis in a way that respects sovereignty and international law.

This balanced approach, some would call it waffling, is aimed at avoiding the alienation of Russia, while reflecting India’s commitment to global peace, security, and the principle of vasudeva kutumbakam — “the world is one family.” While it showcases India’s preference for diplomatic solutions over military actions, it also paints India in a difficult light while countless Ukrainian civilians continue to die at the hands of Vladimir Putin’s forces.

Recently, the U.S. has emerged as a key partner for India, especially in the defense sector. The two democracies have deepened their strategic cooperation in various areas such as nuclear energy, trade, science, and technology transfer. The recent visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington further bolstered these bilateral ties. Both President Biden and Modi expressed concerns over rising autocratic tendencies worldwide, a topic of considerable significance amid the current tensions in Ukraine.

Most analysts though acknowledge that this approach is untenable. At some point in the future, India will have to decide whether it stands on the right side of history or continues to back the murderous regime in Moscow. Only time will tell.

Dr. Sudhanshu Tripathi teaches Political Science at MDPG College in Uttar Pradesh, India. He also served as Professor of Political Science and Director (in-charge) of the School of Social Sciences at Uttar Pradesh Rajarshi Tandon Open University, from 2017 to 2021. His published works include 'India’s Foreign Policy: Dilemma over Nor Alignment 2.0' in 2020, and 'NAM and India' in 2012, and co-author of 'Rajnitik Avadharnayein' in 2001. Besides numerous articles and research papers in national and international online journals, he was on the Editorial Advisory Board of Third Concept Journal from 2018 to 2020. Dr. Tripathi remains engaged in teacher’s union and social welfare-activities as well.