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Why has India abstained on the UN Security Council resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

EDIT: The Finantial Times published India sticks with Russia after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on the India stance, some details mentioned there:

  • India depends on Russia for crucial commodities such as energy and fertiliser
  • Russia’s support is seen as vital to managing India’s unresolved confrontation with China on its northern Himalayan border
  • the Soviet Union is credited as having helped India win its 1971 war with Pakistan over Bangladesh
  • India might not want to push Putin to further strengthen his alliance with China
  • some 65 per cent of arms transferred to India between 1950 and 2020 were from the Soviet Union or Russia
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3 Answers 3

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Historically, India was a leading member of the Non-Aligned movement and one of the non-Marxist-Leninist states closest to the Soviet Union. Those relations laid the foundation for good India-Russia relations. India's military also uses a lot of Russian equipment; they recently concluded a bevy of trade and arms deals late last year. However, India has also maintained a nice relationship with the US, strengthened especially by the relations between the nationalist and populist leaders, Modi and Trump. Furthermore, India and the US are becoming closer partners against the China-Pakistan bloc. So in sum, India's still in that neutral Cold War zone, balancing between Russia and the US. Abstaining from this vote reflects the fact that they're trying to be non-committal and not anger either of their partners.

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While the reason for the abstention is officially stated in this tweet by the Indian ambassador to the UN,

India is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine.

We urge that all efforts are made for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities.

No solution can ever be arrived at, at the cost of human lives.

We are also deeply concerned about the welfare and security of the Indian community, including a large number of Indian students, in Ukraine.

The contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.

All member states need to honour these principles in finding a constructive way forward.

Dialogue is the only answerto settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment.

It is a matter of regret that the path of diplomacy was given up. We must return to it.

For all these reasons, India has chosen to abstain on this resolution.

an analytical answer would be to maintain balance. India considers Russia an old friend and a guardian. If India loses this guardian, it could be detrimental for India considering that China is equally in a good relation with Russia. Further, history has proven that when the US and the UK wanted to interfere in the Indo-Pak War of 1971, the Soviets stood with India. Indians would prefer an ally in Russia instead of the West. Here, they can't roll the dice by siding with the West over Russia.

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    Point taken. But that's a really strange wording, though, if you look at it. "we are deeply disturbed, we urge violence to end, its a bad idea, we should respect law, and onlybuse dialogue, and for these reasons..... we're not going to vote to do anything" Their text doesn't actually include any "reasons" at all, for the thing it says it provides reasons for..... (Of course its clear why, just noting that comment on the text itself)
    – Stilez
    Feb 26 at 16:38
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    "While the reason for the abstention" -> "While the publicly-given reason for the abstention". Just because they say that's the reason doesn't make it the actual reason.
    – NotThatGuy
    Feb 26 at 18:22
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    Yes. I didn't say it is. Some sentences are intentionally omitted by Mr. Ambassador to let the west wisdom decide why the text looks incoherent. I suppose
    – Gary 2
    Feb 26 at 18:27
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    You kind of did say it is. You said "the reason for the abstention is available in this tweet...". You could have said "the publicly claimed reason" to make that distinction, but didn't. Or called it a "justification" or "their explanation" or any wording other than "the reason" as if you were answering the actual question here. Upvoted anyway, since I know that's not what you meant, and it's an easy wording fix. Thanks for quoting that. Feb 27 at 11:04
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    I would suggest putting that back in as it does change the meaning of your answer.
    – Joe W
    Feb 27 at 18:16
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This Indian exception did not astonish me after a talk MANOHAR PARRIKAR INSTITUTE FOR DEFENCE STUDIES AND ANALYSES (MP-IDSA), Talk by Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schonbach, Chief of the German Navy on 21.01.2022 that stressed the problem of China over the problem of Russia.

1:09:04 [wrap up only:] Crimea is lost, Russia will not annect Ukraine (wrong prediction, the vice admiral had to leave his position directly after this!)

And the "Indian reaction" was:

1:09:20 We cannot agree with you more, because India also has a very strong strategic partnership with Russia

It might be more insightful to listen to it in a longer context. After this, China's expansionist role in Asia is discussed in the next 10 minutes. Here is a summary of the quotes on China:

Then topic: China, South China Sea, quotes of the German officer

1:13:55 China is already putting pressure on India

1:14:28 Sanctions against China as possible "hammer"

1:14:51 ...So instead of really giving - always for harmony, for Ying and Yang - always China the possibility to expand a little bit more, expand a little bit more...

1:16:41 ASEAN is a trading organisation. But you all suffer from China as we do. And we would suffer even more if we did not do anything against it.

1:17:02 I think not against China, but I think, ASEAN could be even more, or some nations from ASEAN should stay close to each other and found a security and stability arrangement ... 1:17:36 bilateral partnerships mean nothing

On the whole, this seemed to get approval. Though this is just an academic institute of defence studies and not official politicians, it might still give some insight into the big questions behind the problem of Russia today.

The vice admiral had to leave his position after this talk because of the view on Russia, but not because of the view on China, and on the whole, this just gives a real life insight into the two sides that India needs to balance out:

  • being against an expansionist Russia because of expansionist China, and
  • being in favor of Russia because it is needed against China (which is a point not only for India).

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