Fresh perspective from Indian author Nihal Singh: '#India understands Russia is protecting basic interests in #Crimea' - today @RT_com
Sophie Shevardnadze: And here in the studio is Indian journalist Nihal Singh. Thank you very much for being with us today. We are going to start from the UN General Assembly vote. They were condemning Crimea's referendum - India has abstained. Earlier the Russian President thanked India for its take on Crimea. What is making India so supportive of Russia on this issue?
Nihal Singh: I think Indian attitude is that Russia is a friend of India - that is point one. Secondly, obviously, as a nation state it is made mindful of its sovereignty and integrity. There are particular circumstances in which this drama has happened. And I think India is very conscious of that. And that is the cause of the abstention in the UN nations.
SS: But I remember the Indian position on the conflict with Georgia in 2008 was restrained. But this time New Delhi has supported Moscow openly saying Russia has legitimate interest in Crimea. What is different this time? What has changed over the years?
NS: Well, I think the realization that this was a geostrategic challenge presented to Russia by the West - the United States and the European Union. I think it was a clear case of containing the Russian Federation. To the extent that you have a nation of 45 million which is the underbelly of the Russian Federation. And you go ahead and try to co-opt it to the West. So in real terms it was a challenge to Russian interests.
SS:So are you saying India is less worried of going against the West?
NS: Well, I think that which have of course commented on in several pieces that this was really a challenge, and against the background of what the West has done to the Russian Federation after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and as everybody knows the various promises made to Russia under German reunification for instance and later in terms of not bringing NATO around Russia and the Balkans and in Poland. All these promises that were not fulfilled. So what is Russia to make of it?
SS:We also hear the words “international community” very often in regards to condemnation of this particular crisis. But as this latest General Assembly vote on Crimea indicates those who abstained or voted with Russia represent a huge percentage of the world's population. Do you feel the positions of countries like India are ignored with this “catch-all” term?
NS: I think, many countries are worried about the integrity angle, because many countries or many parts of the world are vulnerable on that count. The energy the Russians have given in terms of Kosovo – well, it is an arguable point. I think, to play on the safe side, there is of course a lot of Western pressure, as you can imagine, in terms of vote in General Assembly. But otherwise I think the integrity angle is an important one for most countries.
SS: And in regards to Ukraine you've said it is difficult to see how one half of the country with its deep attachment to Russia, can live wedded to an anti-Russian orientation in the other. But doesn't India deal with a very similar situation as well?
NS: Well India has problems in the north-east, and of course there is this perennial problem of Kashmir, but India deals with it in terms of trying to integrate these areas, where there is a matter of difference of opinions and divisions among the population of the particular areas; but, I think, in Crimea’s case, to begin with, of course as everybody knows it was part of the Soviet Union and it was Khrushchev who gifted it to what was then a part of the Soviet Union, which was the Ukrainian Republic, and if you have a population of nearly 60% ethnic Russians, you have a major warm water base for your Black Sea Fleet, and then you have West which is maneuvering Kiev in terms of seeking to coopt it within the Western set up – then obviously there are problems for Russia, I mean it’s going to react, which is what I have been suggesting: that you can’t threaten the basic interests of the Russian Federation, and expect that there will not be a reaction. Of course, despite the consequences this is a major question of geopolitics, because the Russian Federation cannot be at the mercy of the West in terms of its base: whether it will stay there, how long it will stay there; and it is obviously a question of possible blackmail, so for a variety of reasons, I think, in my view it is clear that the Russian state would take firm action in terms of coopting the maneuvers of the Western powers in this particular instance, and I think that is what they did. We all know how during Boris Yeltsin’s time he was made a folk hero by the West, and they mocked all over him, and all over the Russian Federation. And then they coopt despite their promises, which now they say were suggestions and are not real promises, and so on, they coopted Poland into NATO, they coopted Baltic States into NATO – so this was a last of the major jigsaw puzzles which they wanted to complete, in my view.
SS:But if we put aside the power struggle between the West and Russia and also put aside the Crimean instance, we are talking about Ukraine and what is left of it right now. There is still a deep divide between the East and the West. What do you think could be the best solution for a country to stay together?
SS: Mr Singh, India said it recognizes Russia's legitimate interests in Ukraine. Why do you think that the EU and the US never considered the same approach?
SS: President Obama said in Brussels, that everyone has the right to live the life they choose. So we can't help to wonder, why do you think he does not extend this right to those in Crimea?
SS:With the issue of Crimea right now, does Ukraine stand a chance of entering the EU?
SS: After everything that has happened did this in the end leave Russia in a stronger position on the international arena or just the opposite?