“What Is in Our Interest”: India and the Ukraine War

“What Is in Our Interest”: India and the Ukraine War

How India Profits From Its Neutrality in the Ukraine War

The war in Ukraine between Russia and the Western-backed coalition has been raging for over a year, reshaping the global geopolitical landscape and affecting the economic interests of many countries. While most nations have taken a clear stance on the conflict, either supporting or opposing Russia's aggression, India has maintained a neutral position that reflects its complex and shifting interests.

India's neutrality is not a sign of indifference or weakness, but rather a strategic choice that allows it to balance its relations with both Russia and the West, while also benefiting from the opportunities created by the war. India has historical and cultural ties with both sides of the conflict, and does not want to jeopardize its partnerships in defense, energy, trade and diplomacy.

One of the main advantages of India's neutrality is that it has enabled it to become a major buyer of Russian oil, which has become cheaper due to the Western sanctions and price cap imposed on Moscow. India now purchases nearly two million barrels a day from Russia, accounting for about 45 percent of its oil imports. This has boosted India's economy, which relies heavily on energy imports, and has given it a competitive edge in the global market.

India has also leveraged its refining capacity to process the Russian crude oil and export the products to other regions that need fresh energy supplies, such as the European Union, which has banned direct oil purchases from Russia. This has increased India's revenues and influence in the international arena.

India's neutrality has also allowed it to maintain its strategic autonomy and avoid being drawn into a confrontation with either Russia or the West. India has a long-standing defense partnership with Russia, which supplies most of its military equipment and technology. India also cooperates with Russia on nuclear energy and space exploration. At the same time, India has been developing closer ties with the United States and other Western countries, especially on counter-terrorism, climate change and trade issues.

India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, has taken a pragmatic approach to the war in Ukraine, calling for peace and dialogue among all parties, while avoiding any direct criticism or support for either side. Modi has also sought to strengthen India's role as a global leader and mediator, hosting several high-level meetings and summits with various countries and groups, such as the G20, the BRICS and the Quad.

India's neutrality in the Ukraine war may not please everyone, but it is a rational and beneficial decision that serves its national interests and aspirations. India is one of the few countries that can communicate with both Russia and the West, and may play a constructive role in resolving the conflict. India is also one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and needs to secure its energy supplies and markets. By staying neutral, India is able to profit from its neutrality in the Ukraine war.

India’s relations with Ukraine are not limited to the war situation, but also cover various areas of mutual interest and cooperation. India and Ukraine have signed more than 17 bilateral agreements, including on science and technology, space research, double taxation avoidance, and investment promotion and protection123. India also supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders4.
India and Ukraine have a strong trade and economic partnership, which has grown significantly in the last 25 years. In 2018-19, the bilateral trade between the two countries was almost US$2.8 billion5. India is Ukraine’s largest export destination in the Asia-Pacific region and the fifth largest overall export destination5. The main items being imported by India from Ukraine are chemicals, equipment, machines and engines, while the main items being exported by India to Ukraine are drugs, pharmaceuticals, ores and minerals, tobacco products, tea, coffee, spices, silk and jute123.
India and Ukraine also have a long-standing defense cooperation, which dates back to the Soviet era. Ukraine is a major supplier of military equipment and technology to India, such as the R-27 air-to-air missiles used by the Indian Air Force on its SU-30MKI fighters4. India also cooperates with Ukraine on nuclear energy and space exploration. During Aero India 2021, Ukraine signed four agreements worth ₹ 530 crore (US$66 million) with India, which include sale of new weapons as well as maintenance and upgrades of existing ones in service with the Indian armed forces4.
India and Ukraine have also been enhancing their cultural and people-to-people ties, which are based on historical and civilizational links. India has been supporting Ukraine’s efforts to preserve its cultural heritage and promote its language. India has also been providing scholarships and training programs to Ukrainian students and professionals in various fields. There are around 15,000 Indian students studying in Ukraine, mainly in medical colleges123.
India’s neutrality in the Ukraine war does not mean that it is indifferent or passive to the developments in the region. India is aware of the challenges and opportunities that the war poses for its interests and values. India is also committed to maintaining peace and stability in the region and the world. India’s neutrality is a reflection of its strategic vision and pragmatic approach to its foreign policy.


(1) How India Profits From Its Neutrality in the Ukraine War. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/06/22/business/india-russia-oil.html.
(2) What's behind India's strategic neutrality on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/india-remaining-neutral-russias-invasion-ukraine/story?id=97891228.
(3) Why India took a neutral stand in Russia-Ukraine conflict? PM Modi explains. https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-why-india-took-a-neutral-stand-in-russia-ukraine-conflict-pm-modi-explains-2939126.
(4) PM Modi explains reason for India’s neutrality in Russia-Ukraine war. https://theprint.in/india/pm-modi-explains-reason-for-indias-neutrality-in-russia-ukraine-war/868098/.
(5) India’s Neutrality Over Russia-Ukraine War - Modern Diplomacy. https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2023/03/02/indias-neutrality-over-russia-ukraine-war/.


What is the impact of Ukraine war on India's trade?

Russia conflict has adversely affected India's economy is through its negative consequences on trade. India sources resources like coal, oil, natural gas and other commodities such as steel, cotton and wheat from Russia, and imports highly valuable energy sources such as nuclear fuel from Ukraine.

Is India a Russian ally?

India considers Russia a time-tested ally from the Cold War era with key cooperation in defense, oil, nuclear energy and space exploration. But the partnership has become complicated as Moscow builds closer ties with India's main rival, China, in part because of the war against Ukraine.

Why is India allied with Russia?

Russia and India, both, consider their mutual affinity to be a "special and privileged strategic partnership". India and Russia together have aligned interest of creating multipolar world order each being one pole instead of bipolar world with the decline of the American-led unipolar world order.

What is the reason for conflict between Russia and Ukraine?

Ukraine became a battleground in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and began arming and abetting separatists in the Donbas region in the country's southeast. Russia's seizure of Crimea was the first time since World War II that a European state annexed the territory of another.

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