India continues to face difficult choices as Russia has expanded the offensive in Ukraine in terms of vertical escalation employing air strikes and missiles on civilian targets as claimed by Ukraine. The humanitarian tragedy that is emerging from the situation cannot be overlooked by India and there are reports of the US and the West calling on New Delhi to join the chorus of condemning Moscow for the violent turn impacting civilians that the offensive has taken now.
On the reports of India buying crude from Russia at a discounted rate, Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson responded in a media conference on March 17th saying that, “India does import most of its oil requirements. So it's met by imports. So, we are always exploring all possibilities in global energy markets, because of this situation that we face of importing our oil requirement. I don't think Russia has been a major supplier. But as regards the specific query, I think it was implicit in both of them of imports of energy from Russia. Let me just highlight that a number of countries are doing so, especially in Europe, and for the moment I'll leave it at that”.
This is in response to the developments wherein, White House spokesperson, Jen Psaki, reacting to the same said, “Our message to any country continues to be that, obviously, abide by the sanctions that we have put in place and recommended. I don’t believe this would be violating that. But also think about where you want to stand when the history books are written in this moment in time.” Psaki added that any “support for the Russian leadership” was “ support for an invasion that obviously is having a devastating impact”.
Importantly Amy Bera, the chair of the House of Representatives subcommittee on Asia, Pacific, Central Asia and non-proliferation, as a senior Indian-American member of the Congress expressed that he was “deeply disappointed” as India continued to abstain in the United Nations on resolutions condemning Russian aggression in Ukraine.
“Even worse, India is now reportedly looking to bypass international sanctions and buy Russian oil at a steeply discounted rate, potentially giving (Vladimir) Putin an economic lifeline at a time when the Russian economy is reeling from international sanctions,” Bera added. “As the world’s largest democracy, and as a leader of the Quad, India has a responsibility to ensure its actions do not directly or indirectly support Putin and his invasion,” he said.
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson responded in a media conference on March 17th also highlighted India’s overall policy, he said, “Our preference, we feel the only way out is through diplomacy and dialogue. This has been emphasized by Prime Minister in his conversation President Putin, President Zelenskyy. This is what we have been emphasizing. At the UN we've been highlighting the need to respect the UN Charter, the territorial integrity of countries.
Despite emergence of Ukraine as a major issue on the international stage, Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson responded in a media conference on March 17th reiterated that the focus of QUAD will continue to be Indo Pacific. “On the Quad related element look, instead of looking only at the next Quad Summit, which I understand Japan has offered to host, let me just refer you to the recent Quad virtual meeting that took place and as you saw that where we had a reference to discussions on international issues, of course, we feel that the main focus of Quad should continue to be and is continuing on the Indo Pacific but of course, topical issues, live issues, as very close partners and friends naturally they are discussed at length….”
India’s embassy to Ukraine continues to function and has provided contact details for those who wish to reach out for assistance. “Dear Indians in Ukraine, Embassy of India continues to function and can be contacted through email: firstname.lastname@example.org the following 24*7 helpline numbers on WhatsApp for assistance: +380933559958, +919205209802 and +917428022564,” it said in a statement on its Twitter handle.
The Indian embassy was relocated to Polish capital Warsaw, on a temporary basis, on March 13, due to what the Ministry of external affairs (MEA) said was a ‘rapidly deteriorating security situation’ in the east European country.