India is the second most populated country in the world which is expected to be the fastest-growing economy in the world this year. Read the brief analysis of the Russian-Ukrainian war in the Indian media and our talk with an independent international relations analyst.
‘The Ukrainian Review’ has analyzed the last two weeks’ publications of the 10 largest media companies in India and what they write about the Russian-Ukrainian war. There are five main points that we note.
- BBC World News is very popular in India. This company is well-known for its high standards, which it also applies to show the Russian-Ukrainian war.
- Some large media in India don’t write about the Russian-Ukrainian war. It’s DD News with no mention of Ukraine or Russia in their international news and India TV with last news about the war from May 2022.
- Other media from the list show facts about what happens in Ukraine, we didn’t notice any fakes in the following period. For example, you can see news from ABP Live, India Today, NDTV.
- In Indian media it is possible to read either Russian official points of view or Ukrainian ones neutrally shown. For example, an article ABP live ‘NATO Making ‘Overtures’ To India Against China: Russia Foreign Minister Lavrov’ and the article by NDTV ‘Russia Warns West Over Supply Of Long-Range Weapons To Ukraine’ based on Russian official points. At the same time, the media equally shows Ukrainian opinions.
- It is possible to notice some kind of interest of Russia in India through its media. For example, there are articles about Russian culture and its cooperation with India.
To understand better how India sees the war in Ukraine and Russia’s influence in this country we also have spoken with independent international relations analyst Nataliya Plaksiyenko-Butyrska. Our dialog follows.
– What is India’s position in the Russian-Ukrainian war?
“The officially formulated position of India regarding the war in Ukraine is neutrality. This is India’s traditional approach since the Cold War when the country was one of the leaders of non-alignment. It abstains from voting on resolutions (according to UN Watch Database, India has abstained in all eight the UN resolutions condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine, – author’s note) and continues to trade with Russia while calling for peace talks. Those calls became especially visible lately, when Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, told Putin that now was not the time for the war. It was a good signal.
It is also important to note that India traditionally has had very close relations with Russia. They can be traced deep into the Cold War. And the most important thing is the period when it had a confrontation with Pakistan – at that time the Soviet Union supported India. They remember that support very well. The US was on Pakistan’s side in that situation. Later their relations improved and America helped India with many other issues.
Now India builds closer relations with the West. The reason for this is a serious territorial conflict with China. There is still no official border established between the countries in large areas and skirmishes occasionally occur there.
India is balancing. It manages to maintain good relations with Russia and the West, and even trades with China in a tense situation.”
– Why is India important to Russia?
“India is very important to Russia, as China does. These are the two main countries that are crucial. First, the support of large states with large economies and populations is important for Russia. For example, the declarations that are accepted in the UN Council – India constantly refrains to vote. Next is trade. Russia is very actively diversifying its trade rerouting it to the East, especially on the energy markets. India and China, unfortunately, became kind of a lifeline that saved Russia during these months of the war. They bought an unusually large amount of oil products and coal that were under sanctions. India justifies this by the fact that they have a large population that needs to sustain a certain standard of living. The companies claim they had no instructions to buy Russian. But they buy what is cheaper.
Unfortunately, these two countries believe that Western sanctions are destructive to the world economy. It is not taken into account that Russia provoked these negative factors through its actions. It was Russia that blocked Ukrainian ports, which caused food prices to rise all over the world.
Trade between India and Russia has doubled this year. India also buys energy carriers in large quantities and resells them to European markets. Thus, it also has serious economic benefits.”
– Do you notice some Russian narratives in Indian media?
“Indian mass media prints a lot of news about Ukraine and Russian aggression. They talk about what is happening. These media rely mainly on American or other Western sources. But in expert and scientific circles, as well as analytical centers, the influence of Russia is felt very seriously, because Russia has been actively interacting with India since the Soviet times. For example, leading Indian experts were always invited to the Valdai Club (an international discussion club in Russia), and large delegations of politicians and businessmen, as well as experts, were invited during annual economic forums. They discussed all the issues related to Russia. And our neighbor, it should be said, was actively waging an information war against Ukraine even until 2014. This influence is very tangible. It is not a justification of Russia’s actions, but a misunderstanding of what is really happening.
Also, in Asian countries and many countries of the Middle East, several factors play very much in favor of Russia. That is the colonial past and some images of the West. There is such a belief that the West is a bit selfish and does everything at their expense. And this is facilitated by the proximity to Afghanistan. There, the events that took place with the withdrawal of the American troops (more detailed about this here, – author’s note), to some extent, had such an impact that it was perceived as selfishness in many countries of that region. There is an opinion that Western countries create conflicts where it is beneficial for them and they are destroying global security. So, there are anti-Western sentiments. This is even though India is a democracy and closely cooperates with the West.
Everything often boils down to the Russian narrative that the USA is at war with Russia on the territory of Ukraine. Journalists and experts often asked me why we would not find an understanding with Russia, although they sympathize with Ukraine in this war being brutal. They do not fully understand Russia-Ukraine relations, the main thing that needs to be talked about.”
— In your opinion, can Indian society influence political decisions about Ukraine?
“India is a democracy. At the same time, it is necessary to understand that if we want society to influence in the context of Russian aggression against Ukraine, then, unfortunately, we cannot count on it. Unlike some of the political issues, India is a country of 1.4 billion people, and among them a large proportion of the population is poor. That part, first of all, worries about what they will eat tomorrow. Indians are focused on internal issues. And that is why all the messages coming from politicians and the prime minister are primarily aimed at their domestic problems. Both the purchase of oil and the desire for peace are closely related to the discomfort that India feels and to the fact that it can provide resources for its internal needs.”
According to the latest official information from the Embassy of India in Kyiv, over 7,725 kg of humanitarian aid consisting of essential medicines and medical equipment had been delivered from this country to Ukraine in May 2022. India also had sent over 90 tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine and neighboring countries, consisting of medicines, medical equipment and other relief materials including blankets, tents, tarpaulin, protective eye gear, water storage tanks, sleeping mats, surgical gloves, etc. In addition, Indian Pharmaceutical Companies, under the Indian Pharmaceuticals Manufacturers Association of Ukraine (IPMA) have also donated USD 6 million worth of medical aid and financial assistance to Ukraine.
It’s also worth adding about the Ukrainian-Indian relationship, Ukraine delivered the weapons to Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1999. Besides, there is information about unofficial arms delivery from Pakistan to Ukraine in the current war, spreading in Indian media.