Russia hailed India’s “independent and balanced” stance after Delhi abstained in a UN Security Council vote that deplored Moscow’s “aggression” against Ukraine.
India, along with China and the United Arab Emirates, did not vote on the resolution on Friday, a move consistent with the fair balance Delhi has sought to strike between partnerships with Moscow and Western allies.
The Russian Embassy in India hosted India’s stand on Saturday.
“I highly appreciate India’s independent and balanced position in the vote at the UNSC,” he said on Twitter.
“In the spirit of the special and privileged strategic partnership, Russia is committed to maintaining a close dialogue with India on the situation around Ukraine.”
Despite being the world’s largest democracy and a member of the “Quad” group along with Australia, Japan and the United States, India has so far neither explicitly condemned Moscow’s actions nor called them an invasion.
New Delhi and Moscow were close throughout the Cold War, a relationship that still endures today, and Russia continues to be India’s biggest arms supplier.
The United States discussed with India its position on Ukraine and on Saturday urged Delhi to use its influence with Russia to “protect the rules-based international order”.
“India and Russia have a relationship, including in the defense and security sector, which we don’t have,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
“We have asked all countries that have a relationship and certainly countries that have leverage to use that leverage constructively.”
Since the assault, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian Vladimir Putin, expressing concern over the violence.
Critics were quick to condemn India’s balancing act.
“India’s caution, avoid Putin’s wrath at all costs despite Russia’s blatant aggression against Ukraine underscores that it is still unprepared to take on major power responsibilities or be a partner reliable,” tweeted foreign relations expert Richard Haass.
“Disappointing and short-sighted given the rise of China.
The diplomatic frenzy comes as India embarks on an air evacuation drill for thousands of its students stranded in Ukraine after the Russian assault on the capital Kiev and other cities.
On Saturday, the first group of some 200 Indian students who arrived on a special flight expressed their relief and joy after landing in Mumbai.
“I was in the town of Chernovitsky in western Ukraine so it was considered the safest, but a town near us was bombed and we were scared if we were the next to be bombed,” Rutuja Kamble, a medical student, told AFP.