Every crisis benefits someone, says Derek Grossman in Foreign Policy. In the case of Ukraine, that someone is Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. Since 2018, India and the US have enjoyed a “blossoming partnership”: they have firmed up security ties and jointly pledged to uphold the “rules-based liberal international order”. But when Russia invaded Ukraine, Modi shunned this commitment for an “ultra-realist policy” of championing Indian interests above all else. India continues to import Russian arms (which comprise about 85% of its military hardware) and is flouting Western sanctions to snap up heavily discounted Russian oil.
Joe Biden would rather turn a blind eye to this behaviour than risk driving India further into the arms of adversaries. Only last month, he promised “to make the US-India partnership among the closest we have on Earth”. But Modi is doubling down on his ties with Moscow. At the UN, India abstains on anti-Russian resolutions drawn up by the West. In return, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has pledged to “supply any goods which India wants to buy” and even suggested that India mediate peace talks with Ukraine. China has also taken to wooing Modi, affirming India’s “legitimate right” to buy Russian oil and advocating an alliance between Beijing and New Delhi. Modi is being “courted from all sides”. If he plays his cards right, he can use this moment to “carve out an independent superpower role” for India.