New Delhi: Exactly a year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in our special series on the war, Ambassador D.B.Venkatesh Varma, India’s Envoy to Russia from September 2018 to October 2021 in conversation with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi.
Ambassador Varma assesses “India has acquitted itself very well” during “a year of considerable stress for Indian foreign policy”. He says India “made the right call on the invasion. Of course, Russia crossing the red line of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine was noted and that is a principle that we support. But, we did not agree with the Western framing of the conflict, which is that it was unprovoked aggression. It was not. It had a certain history, going back several decades. It was a geopolitical push back by Russia.” The former envoy to Moscow points out “we have positioned ourselves well in this emerging multipolar situation. The emerging multipolar situation is that you first need to protect your wicket”, adding, “the Russia-Ukraine war will be a catalyst for major global changes. We are well positioned. But, these will be tectonic and systemic changes that are technical and the time is now to make the right moves”.
Ambassador Bala Varma is “fairly clear on where it(the war) is heading. There will be a portion of Ukraine that will go into NATO when the war ends. And, the other portion of Ukraine is something that the Russians will be determined to occupy”. One year on, he says,”it is safe to say that the stalemate will probably end in some sort of ceasefire with Russia gaining the upper hand, but surely laying the basis for a contested ceasefire and a division of Ukraine”.
“U.S.-China competition is a different ball game altogether,” Ambassador Varma says, acknowledging “the only beneficiary of this turn of events will be China, which is well positioned”. He also points to “the fact that the United States is overextended. It is getting deeper into the quagmire in Europe. And if it gets deeper into European security, overextension is also another form of weakness”. In the former envoy’s analysis, “the United States will find it very, very difficult to conduct a dual containment policy across the entire Eurasian continent, which is Russia on one side and China on the other side”.
“We need to draw the right lessons,” Ambassador Varma argues ” Russia is not just a legacy military partner for us. I think we make a mistake in making out that Russia is the past and someone else is the future. I think life is not so simple as that. We need to do business with Russia in the new way rather than repeating the old patterns”. Accepting “the Ukraine war has underlined the urgency to recalibrate Russia ties” watch the full interview for why Ambassador Varma is adamant, “the urgency is not to cut and run”.