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Can India Mediate the Conflict Between Russia and the West?

At the G20 summit in New Delhi last week, India persuaded the US and Europe to soften wording of the joint communique on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine so that the summit could provide consensus on addressing the concerns of poorer countries, including global debt, food security and financing for climate issues.

Without a dissenting note, the world’s 20 biggest economies formally adopted a joint declaration.

The language used in the Delhi document was markedly softer on Russia than the wording in the Bali declaration from the 2022 G20, which “deplored in the strongest terms” the Kremlin’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

After this year’s G20 summit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed satisfaction “we were able to prevent the West’s attempts to Ukrainize the summit agenda.”

‘Putin owes Modi’

Foreign policy experts and diplomats have said the summit in New Delhi bolstered India’s image as a growing diplomatic and economic force.

Additionally, the summit was indicative of India’s ability to balance its historically stable partnership with Russia while nurturing its relationship with Western countries.

“More than just balancing key relationships, what India is attempting in geopolitics is to bridge divides. This applies both to the East-West divide and to the North-South one,” Ajay Bisaria, a former Indian diplomat, told DW.

“Over the course of the Ukraine war, India has been in conversation with both Putin and Zelenskyy, and, at the same time, Prime Minister Modi was also speaking regularly with western leaders like Biden and Macron,” Bisaria said. “Often, the parties would use India to get messages across to the other side.”

Bisaria said India could be a venue for eventual peace talks in the Ukraine war.

“There has been little appetite for peace talks, but I am sure, when the belligerents get on the table, India will offer its services and diplomacy to help mediate or coordinate the endgame,” he said.

Mohan Kumar, a former Indian ambassador to France, told DW that Russia would be making a huge mistake if its leaders believe that countries in the Global South are buying their line on the war in Ukraine, as many want the conflict to end soon.

“The New Delhi G20 summit has given a lifeline to Russia, and it would be suicidal on its part not to take it and make a difference to world peace,” Kumar said. “Putin owes Modi one, and it may be worthwhile for India to consider cashing it at an appropriate time in the future.”

After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, India was in a diplomatic dilemma, with key strategic partners on both sides.

India has repeatedly stressed that it views its relationships with Russia and the United States as independent of each other and will not let either of them dictate its foreign policy.

Sujan Chinoy, director general of the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, told DW that the West and Russia “both perhaps see merit in balancing their own wider geostrategic interests through a credible country like India, which represents the voice of the Global South.”

Bringing the world to the Global South?

India’s initiatives during its G20 presidency included adding countries of the Global South to the summit conversation and inviting the African Union to the bloc.

“If the Delhi summit had been allowed to collapse on account of lack of consensus on Ukraine, the G20 as a forum could have suffered from irreversible damage at the expense of groups like the BRICS, which had expanded,” Kumar, referring to the economic grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

‘Bridging a fractured world’

Analysts say India is trying to position itself against growing Chinese influence by building ties both with the Global South and Western countries.

“India’s principal contradiction today is with China,” C. Raja Mohan, senior fellow at Asia Society Policy Institute, told DW. “Russia is a legacy problem that needs to be managed. India’s balancing act is about creating a new Asian security order. Russia is of little help for India in that regard.”

The G20 forum also weakened China’s claim of representing the Global South, especially in the announcement of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, which rivals China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“For India, the West is the most important trading partner, the dominant source of capital and technology, and the major destination for the Indian diaspora,” Mohan said. “Cooperation with the G7 is also critical for India to effectively deal with the increasing challenges from China.”

Gurjit Singh, a former Indian ambassador to Germany, told DW that India is playing “a role of bridging a fractured world.”

“The lead India has taken to be lead interlocutor between the Global South and G7 is visible,” Singh said. “What is important to note is the ability to connect the West to Russia is there and used quietly, not in public.”

Source : DW