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Opinion: Can the West wean India off Russia's influence?

DW logo DW 28/06/2022 Isha Bhatia Sanan

From BRICS to G7, Narendra Modi seems to be everywhere. The West wants India as a strategic partner, while Russia sees it as an economic ally. DW's Isha Bhatia Sanan asks what India might really want.

Holding on for all it's worth: Which side will India choose? © Ludovic Marin/REUTERS Holding on for all it's worth: Which side will India choose?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known for his enthusiastic bear hugs. So much so that at times there have been awkward moments, such as at COP26 in 2022, when Modi seemed to get too cozy with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

But, at Schloss Elmau in the German Alps, the scene looked a little different. French President Emmanuel Macron seemed so happy with the hug that he clung on to Modi. It was almost symbolic: The G7 gripping India firmly, making sure it stays by its side.

The summit focused on key areas such as climate change, health, economic stability, sustainable investments and crisis solutions. Undoubtedly, the latter was the most ubiquitous issue over the three days. The guest countries, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Senegal and South Africa, were invited to discuss topics around climate neutrality, gender equality and health architecture. But Russia and the war in Ukraine loomed large.

Trying to get India on board

Despite the West's attempts to sway India, the country's stance on Russia's war in Ukraine has remained unchanged for the past four months: resolution through diplomacy and dialogue. India has remained neutral by neither criticizing Russia nor taking any sides. India has also abstained from UN resolutions against Russia, making it clear to the world that it will continue to remain a non-aligned country.

Isha Bhatia Sanan works for DW's Hindi service © Provided by Deutsche Welle Isha Bhatia Sanan works for DW's Hindi service

Modi's message to the world is clear: India's own interests are a priority over anything else. Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra told the media before Modi's visit to Germany that "there should be no dilemma, doubt, hesitation about it that the side will be only that of India, the principles will be ours, the interests will be our own, but the solution will be such that, in a global perspective, it clearly has its relevance and utility."

Join the club

India's growing significance in the new world order is also visible through the various groupings it is part of. From BRICS to QUAD; G4 to G20; SCO to SAARC — India is walking a tightrope. And although India is not part of the G7, Modi has been on the guest list regularly for the last four years.

At one of the sessions on energy, Modi emphasized India's needs. "All of you will also agree with this that energy access should not be the privilege of the rich only. A poor family also has the same rights on energy. And today, when energy costs are sky-high due to geopolitical tensions, it is more important to remember this thing," he said.

India has been continuously criticized for increasing its purchases of Russian oil. The fact that Russia is selling oil at discounted prices to India has not gone down well with the West. Now, the same could become true of gold after the G7 announced sanctions on Russian gold. India is the world's second-largest importer of the commodity in the world after China.

Provided by Deutsche Welle © Provided by Deutsche Welle Provided by Deutsche Welle

Becoming more influential on its own terms

India wants to strengthen its trade ties both with the West and the East. It's seeking to be at the center of green energy, sustainability and technology in the post-pandemic world. India also claims that it wants to be part of the efforts to find solutions to global challenges, especially those emerging out of the Russia-Ukraine war. These include food security, energy security, commodity inflation, price inflation, disruption of supply chain, among others. But India wants to do all of this on its own terms; weigh its own options and make its own decisions. India does not want to be told when, how and with whom it should trade.

In the current scenario, India has become more important for the West which cannot afford to cut its ties with India. Considering the growing US-China tensions the West's dependence on India is bound to grow further. And hence India continues to stand its ground.

In November, the BRICS and G7 countries will come together in Bali, Indonesia, for the G20 summit. The West will then have to try new tricks to persuade Modi and get India on its side.

Author: Isha Bhatia Sanan

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