NEW DELHI: In what could be a defining statement vis-à-vis India’s position in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rightly stated that while the country wants to be friends with the West, it needs Russia’s assistance to defend its borders.
India has steadfastly resisted the West’s attempt to limit its bilateral relations with Moscow and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government faced criticism for its impartial stand in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its decision to procure discounted Russian oil.
Explaining India’s stand, Sitharaman said that India is focused on protecting its regional interest.
Hinting at long-standing border issues with its neighbours Pakistan and China, Sitharaman said, “You have a neighbour who joins hands with another neighbour, both of whom are against me. In the context of the Russia-Ukraine war, God forbid, if there are alliances created, India has to be strong enough to protect itself.
“India wants to be friends with the European Union and the Western, free, liberal world,” she told Bloomberg in Washington where she attended the annual spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. “But not as a weak friend that needs desperate help here and there,” she made it clear.
Moscow has been a reliable partner of New Delhi for the supply of defence equipment. Despite calls from western countries to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, India has stopped short of outright condemnation. It has, however, has time and again called for return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the conflict between Moscow and Kyiv.
India abstained from the vote in United Nations General Assembly on a draft resolution to condemn the invasion. However, it has condemned alleged human rights violations in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.