Opportunity in crisis – Ukraine crisis highlights India’s need to reduce dependence on military imports | 2nd May 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the need to realign India's defence strategy in the wake of the inconclusiveness of the Russia-Ukraine War.


  • GS2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests; Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora;
  • Essay


  • The impact (social, political and economic) of the Russia-Ukraine War has been felt by almost every nation on the Earth.  
  • Ukraine is a key contributor of grain, edible oil and fertilisers to the world’s supply chains and Russia is a major exporter of natural gas and crude oil.
  • Shortages of these items are leading to falling stock markets, rising prices, public discontent and even political upheaval.
  • At the same time, this conflict has posed a dilemma for New Delhi. As time passes, the inconclusiveness of the war has raised new questions in front of India that need immediate attention.


  • Maintaining international confidence in India:
    • India has handled its foreign policy successfully so far, but as circumstances change, India needs to look for new options.
    • India remains engaged with Russia and China in the BRICS format as well as in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), while also partnering with the US in the Quad and Malabar groupings.
    • To add complexity, India simultaneously holds presidencies of the G20 and SCO. Astute statesmanship will be required if India is to take advantage from this “tightrope walk” while maintaining “strategic autonomy”.
  • Russia’s constraints:
    • Economic sanctions are harming the Russian economy as a result of the prolonged war. Right now, Russia desperately needs unwavering allies. Given the present international circumstances India can't be Russia’s absolute friend and partner, but China can. Russia would therefore have a very tough time arguing for India's interests in the event of an India-China conflict.
    • Given the rapid decline of Russia’s capability/reliability as a defence supplier and our parlous security environment, India needs to diversify its defence partners.
    • India needs to undertake a re-appraisal of its policies and accord priority to “power-balancing” as well as “technology acquisition” on its diplomatic agenda.
  • QUAD, US and India’s interests:
    • Due to above mentioned factors, India’s engagement with the QUAD and thus with the US needs a proper consideration.
    • The Quad and Malabar groupings are a manifestation of the convergence of US and Indian strategic interests. Although these forums appear to be serving a useful military-diplomatic purpose, their overall impact has been underwhelming. It is time for India to motivate its Quad partners to evolve a meaningful charter and agenda and to invest the grouping with substance — and teeth.
    • Despite India and the USA being a “strategic partnership”, till now doesn't have any significant military technology transfer initiatives. At the same time, Australia, the UK and US announced the formation of a trilateral security pact, AUKUS.
    • As a course correction, an Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) was announced in May 2022 by Joe Biden.
    • It remains to be seen if iCET results in significant sales or transfer of technology to India or ends up as an addition to the “alphabet soup” of Indo-US agreements.

Way Forward:

  • India, a nuclear-weapon state and space power, also fields the world’s fourth-largest military. And yet, the lackadaisical performance of its military-industrial complex has rendered it abjectly import-dependent for weaponry.
  • While “atmanirbharta” is a laudable quest, technology has long gestation periods and we should draw useful lessons from China.
  • It is time for India to adopt a “whole of government” approach so that trade, commerce, and diplomacy can be synergised, to leverage the acquisition of military technology that will make us truly atmanirbhar in the long run.

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