With Libya, is India confused or just too clever by half?
India abstained last week from a U.N. vote on the no-fly zone in Libya that also authorised military action, but since then it has been more vocal in its rejection of airstrikes, joining China and Russia in criticising the coalition of Western powers and the Arab league and its actions against the Libyan government.
“We regret the air strikes that are taking place in Libya. We are viewing ongoing violence with grave concern,” Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters on Monday, in comments carried by NDTV television channel. It echoed an official comment on Sunday.
India’s declarations signal that New Delhi will not step in line with the West despite its growing ties with the United States and Europe — highlighted by a string of visits last year, including President Barack Obama’s and the leaders of France and the United Kingdom.
This is not new. India for years has gone against U.S. interests in a string of geo-political issues, including Myanmar. But it has counted on the fact that it is now economically too important to be sidelined by any Western power due to any criticism of the West.
India, especially the ruling Congress party, still has deep roots in the Non-Aligned Movement. And domestically, it plays well with voters often skeptical of Western intentions.
Why then did India abstain in the U.N. vote? While China’s veto would have stopped the no-fly zone given Beijing’s status as a permanent member of the Security Council, India’s would have been a symbolic move.
China did not want to be seen blocking what is perceived by many as being a humanitarian mission. India would have just been a noted protest at the United Nations.
So again, there is a disparity between what India votes and what it says. Is India still unclear about where it stands globally? Or has it played a clever political game — a game that it has played for decades as a “non-aligned” power — that will pan out if the military airstrikes end in a stalemate?