New Delhi may have its view of the world but Kiev and its supporters don’t get it.
“I have no comments to offer… other than being mystified at my inclusion in this list.” That’s how former National Security Advisory Board head P.S. Raghavan, a retired foreign service officer who also served as India’s ambassador to Russia, replied to an accusation of disseminating ‘Russian propaganda.’
It was made by the Center for Countering Disinformation, a subsidiary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.
The body released the list on July 14, and it included “Speakers promoting Russian propaganda-inspired narratives.” Two more Indian nationals – veteran journalist Saeed Naqvi and Sam Pitroda, a former adviser to Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh – found themselves among the politicians and experts whose positions on the Ukrainian crisis appear to be a dissonant chord in the chorus of Western narratives.
The Ukrainian information officers seem to have deliberately omitted several Indian names, rather than missing statements about the continuing hostilities between Moscow & Kiev. The list could gain new names after any political talk show on Indian TV – and neither alleged Russian spying nor state-sponsored propaganda is the issue.
It is the widely accepted coverage of the conflict in Ukraine in the West and India’s worldview that do not dovetail.
A new twilight for the gods
“It is an important moment. These days will define our decisions. [the]Many more decades are ahead. Our response to Russia’s aggression today will decide the future of both the international system and the global economy. Or will heinous destruction win? What will rule the law or do the powers of might prevail? Is there constant struggle and conflict or will the future be one of shared prosperity and long-lasting peace? The Indo-Pacific region will be affected by what happens in Ukraine.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the Raisina Dialogue on April 25.
This speech serves as a great example of how the West perceives the ongoing crisis versus India’s place in world. For West European politicians, the idea that the country is part of the “civilized world” requires actions backing up that status. Therefore, New Delhi is expected to exhibit “proper behavior” according to the West.
This is where we should acknowledge Ukraine’s success – the nation’s perspective dominates in American and EU media sources, which further disseminate it among non-Western countries. This discourse states that the conflict in Ukraine is of global significance, has weakened international law and security and caused global economic and energy crises.
It has, in short, destroyed everything we knew.
Frankly speaking, one should not be surprised that Western Europeans consider the conflict to be a catastrophe for their world. For more than 70 years, have they nurtured the Kantian idea of Perpetual Peace, even if that meant conveniently ignoring the fact of the war in Yugoslavia. Political elites ranging from prominent intellectuals, such as Jürgen Habermas to national leaders such as Olaf Scholz, seemingly don’t regard the Balkans as a part of the continent.
Top Ukrainian leaders have succeeded in securing full coverage as part of a European conflict. Consequently, Russia’s arguments for more discussion were blocked.
This was what the Ukrainians understood and used it to their advantage to promote victimization. They also learned from strategies that were employed in 1990s Balkans and made sure there was no room for anyone to hear alternative viewpoints.
However, the weltanschauung proposed could not have met with similar support all around the world, and such a construct should not be taken for granted in a place like India in which almost all of the variables are completely different.
There is no point in singing unison
“You must be proud of who you are. I think it is better to engage the world on the basis of who we are, rather than try and please the world as a pale imitation of what they are… This idea that others define us, somehow we need to get the approval of other quarters – I think that is an era we need to put behind us,” Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said in response to European pressure on the issue of Ukraine at the same venue.
India has its own view on major international issues. The country’s strategic culture includes New Delhi taking hard stances on matters directly challenging national security in the neighborhood; seeking broad economic, political, and cultural interaction within the Indo-Pacific region; positioning itself globally as a great power operating in a multipolar world.
In this context, Ukraine and problems related to the region lie beyond the scope of India’s vital national interests. New Delhi will discuss many issues including Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq as well as other countries that are ravaged by war. However, Ukraine is not considered a keystone of the broader security agenda.
India could find the Afghan situation of greater importance. This issue was of marginal importance after the US withdrawal and allies troops were withdrawn. Nevertheless, from the Indian perspective, its significance actually increased – New Delhi claimed that “Afghanistan [the]A whole civil society, active and non-profit was taken under the hammer by the global community,” with the West turning a blind eye to the developments in Kabul.
Hence, India’s political elites have showed no enthusiasm for discussing Ukraine. New Delhi is likely to be more upset by West-led pressure.
All the odds are in your favor
To sum up, any Indian expert could end up on the list of Ukraine’s Center for Countering Disinformation. There are two main paths to unlock this ‘achievement’: questioning narratives based on the Ukrainian coverage and referring to alternative sources of information.
It is incredible to see the diversity of views in India’s media, political and military circles. However, both “pro-Western” and “pro-Russian” Indian experts are used to analyzing the situation from an Indian perspective and would hardly give up this approach – even if the West expects some of them to chant mantras from Ukrainian actors.
The West supports the elites of Ukraine. At this juncture, they appear to think that those who do not support them ‘in the proper way’ deserve denigration and canceling. Russia is left with no choice but to sit and wait for Kiev’s elites to make new well-wishers. Here they are sure to succeed.