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Sanskriti asked: How will the Russia–Ukraine crisis affect the multipolarity of the world order and India's role in it?

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  • Ashok Kumar Behuria replies: The Russia–Ukraine crisis does not necessarily negate the concept of multipolarity as much as perceived bipolarity because of ongoing competition between the United States (US) and China for global influence, if not leadership. However, it has certainly shattered the hopes of multipolarity as an essential condition for peace and prosperity in the world. It shows how a multipolar world can still be governed by the principles of realpolitik even when the reflexes of complex interdependence and emancipatory politics (being attempted for making the world more equal and just) continue to guide international politics.

    The crisis shows that international politics cannot be explained by any one of the theories which have been advanced by scholars over the years. But at the same time, it shows that state behaviour continues to be guided primarily by realism, which militates against and poses a critical challenge to the hitherto agreed norms of international politics emphasising order and peace. While Russian behaviour could have been dictated by its persisting diasporic concerns and anxieties over inertial efforts of the much-weakened trans-Atlantic alliance to strengthen itself by weaning countries away from Russia's influence in its near-abroad, the Western bid to stop and reverse Russian aggression has only exacerbated the crisis. The wisdom of the strategy adopted so far to resolve the crisis by meeting the Russian challenge through sanctions and force can only be objectively assessed once the crisis is over.

    For countries like India, operating at the margins of such a military crisis, there is both an opportunity and a challenge to conduct their foreign policy in a manner conducive to their needs and aspirations. While India has expressed its concerns at the continuation of the war and reached out to both Russia and Ukraine to take appropriate measures to resolve the crisis through dialogue, the US and European countries have kept the military option limited to helping Ukraine to resist the Russian aggression, maybe to localise the conflict and minimise its impact The sanctions imposed on Russia has pinched the Russians but impacted the global economy as well. Apart from pushing the crude prices up, it has led to a food crisis in Africa and other parts of the world. A prolonged conflict, even if it stays localised, is likely to affect the global economy and politics adversely. All that India can and needs to do is to plug itself into global diplomatic efforts to end the conflict and minimise its impact on itself and the world.

    Posted on 30 June 2022  

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.