India and most of Latin America view the Russia-Ukraine conflict as a ‘regional’ war limited to Europe, but one that has a massive impact on global financial markets and commodity prices.
Every country has its own unique interests and designs policies to safeguard them to whatever extent possible. This is what underlines the positions taken by much of the developing world, particularly India, Latin America, and Africa, with regard to the ongoing war in Ukraine. A large part of the developing world is far more concerned with domestic issues and a post-COVID economic recovery that has been exacerbated by massive disruptions to global commodity and financial markets. Many countries are struggling to cope with record-high commodity prices of essential agricultural and energy products.
A large part of the developing world is far more concerned with domestic issues and a post-COVID economic recovery that has been exacerbated by massive disruptions to global commodity and financial markets.
India is certainly not alone in its approach to the war in Ukraine. The Latin American region, too, has taken similar positions with regard to its stance on Ukraine. Just as India abstained in the April vote to expel Russia from the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, so did Latin American countries such as Brazil and Mexico. Even as Brazil voted to condemn Russia in a UN General Assembly resolution on 2 March, the country’s permanent representative to the UN decried the “indiscriminate application of sanctions”, noting that such initiatives are “not conducive to the proper resumption of a constructive diplomatic dialogue and risk further escalating tensions with unpredictable consequences to the region and beyond.” Like India, Latin America has also not signed onto the western sanctions programme against Russia. Ana Palacio, a former Spanish foreign minister and member of the European Parliament, confirmed in a recent op-ed that “many Latin American governments have refused to join the West in imposing sanctions on Russia. This has fueled speculation that the region is set to reprise a Cold War-style posture of non-alignment.” Many see Latin America’s posturing as part of a larger pattern, one where the region has sought to actively shield itself from the perils of a ‘new Cold war’ fought between the US and China. Ecuador’s former Foreign Minister Guillaume Long asserts that “over the long term, you are going to see a lot of Latin America not wanting to choose sides in this new Cold War because China is very present in Latin America now. You are not going to have a Latin America aligning, as it did in the first Cold War, against the Soviet Union with the United States.” The similarities between India and Latin America in their positions regarding the war in Ukraine stand in stark contrast to the West’s framing of the conflict. One thing is certain: While the West views the war as a threat to a rules-based, global order, India and most of Latin America view this as a ‘regional’ war limited to Europe, but one that has a massive impact on global financial markets and commodity prices. Table 1. India, Latin America, and the West’s positions on the war in Ukraine As the table above highlights, India’s and Latin America’s positions on the war in Ukraine remain similar. Neither is likely to insert itself in the war in any meaningful fashion, preferring not to take sides in a European conflict. They also have their own domestic preoccupations and regional conflicts to attend to that are of more immediate concern. What India today calls ‘strategic autonomy’ is referred to in Latin America as ‘Active non-alignment,’ as Jorge Heine, Carlos Fortin, and Carlos Ominami note in their new book ‘Active Non-Alignment and Latin America: A Doctrine for the New Century’. In both cases, countries are vying to maintain their autonomy and cater to their own interests.
Although the West views the conflict through the lens of Russian authoritarianism versus a democratic Ukraine, this finds little to no resonance in India, which has for decades been forced to deal with authoritarian and military-led governments, specifically in neighbouring China, Myanmar, or Pakistan.
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Marina de Carvalho Knowledge Management Officer United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) BrazilRead More +