Russia “is increasingly isolated”. That’s what Emmanuel Macron thinks. On Wednesday September 21, as he said to the press on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, the President of the Republic welcomed the statements made by China and India. According to him, “Russia is engaging in a war that only it wants and which is illegal and illegitimate”. “No one today understands the choices that are made by Russia,” he also noted.
On the same day, China called for a “ceasefire through dialogue and consultation” in the conflict in Ukraine, and insisted on the need to respect “the territorial integrity of all countries”, after a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin announcing a partial military mobilization. “The sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected … and all efforts conducive to the peaceful resolution of crises should be supported,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang said. Wenbin, during a press conference.
For his part, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during a one-on-one with Vladimir Putin on September 16 that the time was “not for war”, on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, a meeting which was to be an opportunity for the Russian president to strengthen ties and show that Russia is not isolated. Narendra Modi stressed the importance of “democracy, diplomacy and dialogue”. Vladimir Putin, for his part, assured that he wanted to end the conflict in Ukraine “as quickly as possible”, while saying that he understood India’s “concerns” on this subject.
“India does not implicitly support Russia, unlike China”
As the master of the Kremlin strives to accelerate a turn towards Asia in the face of Western sanctions for his invasion of Ukraine, the solidarity of New Delhi and Beijing with regard to Moscow has shown some fractures. The beginnings of a diplomatic reversal? No, says Antoine Bondaz to L’Express. “The position of China and India with regard to Russia is constant, but their positions are different”, summarizes the researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS). “India cannot be said to implicitly support Russia, unlike China.”
“China has been calling for a ceasefire since the start of the conflict,” he recalls. Beijing’s goal? “To appear as a responsible power that does not explicitly support Russia” even if “it does not condemn the person responsible for the war”. And by reiterating the need to respect “the territorial integrity of all countries”, China is thinking above all… of itself. It is indeed a way of criticizing Westerners on the very sensitive issue of Taiwan, recalls the researcher. “It is therefore more of a defensive position than the desire to criticize Russia,” he analyzes. Beijing has repeatedly expressed its support for Moscow in recent months, which, for its part, has supported China’s position during the recent tensions around Taiwan, in particular during the visit of several American officials to the island, which has the ire of Beijing.
In addition, Antoine Bondaz recalls that China and Ukraine had signed a “strategic partnership” in June 2011, between former Chinese President Hu Jintao and former President Viktor Yanukovych, with cooperation agreements of a amount of 3.5 billion dollars. “There is in this agreement a commitment from China to defend the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity” of Ukraine, he specifies. In short: Beijing is therefore not keeping its commitments.
Xi Jinping’s China, which calls the Russian invasion a “Ukrainian crisis”, has repeatedly said it defends the sovereignty of all countries involved in the conflict, but has refused to condemn Russia’s actions. China and Russia have grown closer in recent years in what they have described as a “no-holds-barred” relationship aimed at counterbalancing US global dominance. Russian and Chinese ships carried out a joint patrol in the Pacific Ocean on September 15 to “strengthen their maritime cooperation”, the Russian Defense Ministry said. Beijing had already taken part last month in joint military maneuvers in Russia.
India’s difficult diplomatic balancing act
For its part, India “has been more critical than China since the beginning of the conflict even if it is a cautious criticism”, underlines Antoine Bondaz, who notes that the Indian Prime Minister physically affirmed, directly in front of Vladimir Putin, that “the time was not for war”. New Delhi “is not aligned with the Western position and it does not want any sanction against Russia”. India is one of 48 out of 193 UN members that refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine in late February. New Delhi calls Moscow, its main supplier of arms and oil, a “key pillar” of Indian foreign policy because of its “strategic partnership” for its national security.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the difficulty of New Delhi’s balancing act with the West, as India pursues closer cooperation with the United States, including as a member of the informal “Quad” alliance, alongside Japan and Australia. In June, New Delhi nevertheless co-signed a G7 declaration pledging to “respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other states” and regularly calls on Russia and Ukraine “to return to the negotiating table”.
Vladimir Putin visited India at the end of 2021, for his second trip abroad since the Covid-19 pandemic, his aim being to strengthen the military and energy ties of the two countries. New Delhi is the second largest arms importer in the world after Saudi Arabia and, according to Business Standardbetween 2016 and 2020, 49.4% of its purchases came from Russia.
The South Asian giant has also significantly increased its purchases of Russian oil, with Indian refiners benefiting from deep discounts. India has been importing between 800,000 and 1 million barrels a day from Russia since March, compared to just 75,000 on average in 2021, remember The echoes. Third crude consumer in the world, it imports 85% of its oil needs which amount to five million barrels per day. Enough to encourage moderation of criticism.