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Crimea annexation: In Putin vs West, India can't pick a side

India has strong ties with Russia. Hence the wisest course for India would be not to involve itself in the geopolitics of the region and maintain a distance from both Putin and the US, with which India’s relations are now on the slightly chilly side. Threats did not sway Putin, now US tries pain

comment Updated: Mar 19, 2014 10:35 IST
Hindustan Times

The referendum in Crimea supporting the region’s accession to Russia will sharpen old conflicts and bring into focus new ones. The problem started with challenges to central rule in Ukraine, whose president Viktor Yanukovych had to flee the country because of his opposition to signing a deal with the European Union.

Sensing that subsequent political developments might prove detrimental to Russia’s interests, Russia sent troops to Crimea. This set the stage for the referendum. While Ukraine and the West have opposed such a breakaway movement, the issue has opened up questions — economic, political and military.

This referendum has been in a sense about righting a historical wrong that has existed since the break-up of the Soviet Union, because the region is more Russian than many parts of Russia.

Read:Crimea's 6 steps towards joining Russia after Soviet-style vote

A man plays accordion as people dance during celebrations in Sevastopol on March 17, 2014. AFP PHOTO

But while Russia’s move to send in the jackboots was to bring about a reunification of the Russian-speaking people, one cannot but detect double standards because Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention prevented a US-led attack on Syria.

This military adventurism will give the West another stick to beat Russia with.

Russia has been too clever by half by giving the example of Kosovo, which had declared its independence from Serbia.

However, the ruthlessness of the Milosevic regime had been absent in the case of Crimea and hence their histories cannot be compared.

Ukrainian interim forces recruits stand guard in front of weapons during a training session not far from Kiev on March 17, 2014. AFP PHOTO

Besides, there is always the chance such demands can crop up in other Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, leading to chaos.

This would not be in Russia’s interests. Ukraine is the most powerful economy among the former Soviet Union states after Russia, which is on its course to building a Eurasian Economic Union.

Without cooperation from Ukraine such an exercise would come apart.

The West is opposed to this design of Mr Putin also and was enticing Mr Yanukovych with a trade pact before he did a volte-face and settled for a multi-billion aid package from Russia.

Women present their bags to armed men in riot gear, performing identity and hand bag checks on people walking near the building of Crimea's regional parliament in Simferopol, Ukraine, Monday, March 17, 2014. AP

With the elections in Ukraine due in May, the country is in need of another hefty package, for which only a stable government can negotiate.

India’s traditional stance has been non-interference in the affairs of other countries.

This is particularly so in the case of Russia, with whom India has strong ties. Hence the wisest course for India, for now at least, would be not to involve itself in the geopolitics of the region and maintain a distance from both Mr Putin and the West, particularly the United States, with which India’s relations are now on the slightly chilly side.

People hold their Ukrainian national flags and a poster featuring Russian President Vladimir Putin and reading "Stop Putin" as they demonstrate in front of the Russian Ambassy in Berlin on March 17, 2014. AFP PHOTO

First Published: Mar 18, 2014 23:13 IST