The NATO-triggered war in Ukraine is having far-reaching geopolitical impacts, with winners and losers to be found thousands of miles from the Donbas.
At the South China Morning Post, Alex Lo argues the biggest winner is India, which has “played a masterful balancing act with Russia, the US and China, extracting significant advantages and benefits while offering few concessions.”
First, by pursuing a policy of neutrality on Ukraine, India has reaped an enormous economic benefit, paying bargain prices for oil, fertilizer and various other commodities. The shift in its petroleum sourcing is particularly striking: Since the war, India has gone from importing nearly zero Russian barrels per day to around 800,000.
And so, as other countries self-inflict economic damages by way of trade sanctions, India gets a boost from cheaper fuel. Meanwhile, Russia’s oil revenues are even higher than before the war—a situation that recently prompted a pathetic plea from U.S. Special Envoy for Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein.
This week, Hochstein told a Senate subcommittee that he implored Indian officials, “Don’t go too far, and don’t look like you’re taking advantage of the pain that is being felt in European households and the United States.” One can imagine the Indians’ private, post-meeting laughter.
Meanwhile, with China engaging in tighter security coordination with Russia, the Ukraine war may also help ease India’s border tensions with China, which have periodically erupted into hours-long, gun-free melees. The Chinese “dare not increase border pressure to antagonize Indians at this time,” writes Lo.
Lo provides important historical context to illuminate India’s neutrality on Ukraine:
“Many Indians are far more critical of the US and NATO expansion as the underlying cause of the war in Ukraine. They are historically well-disposed towards Russia, remembering that the Soviets sided with New Delhi throughout the 1950s, at a time when the Western powers backed Islamabad. And Russia, even after the Soviet collapse, continued to be a reliable weapons supplier.”
Eager to keep India from sliding firmly into a Russian security orbit, the U.S. government is crawling to New Delhi with fresh arms deals of its own. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria “Yats is the Guy” Nuland visited India in March. Summing up her discussions, Nuland said:
“Besides historical ties, India’s dependence on Russia for defense supplies is crucial. Among the things we talked about is this legacy of security support from the Soviet Union and Russia at a time when the US was less generous with India. Now, of course, times have changed and we are very eager to do more and more on the defense side with India.”
Which points to the fact that India has a formidable rival for the title of “biggest winner” from the Ukraine war: the U.S. military-industrial complex.