The Russia-Ukraine conflict has escalated anxiety among the world and especially in South Asia. The Russian foray of Ukraine is echoing through Asia. It’s going to see some very imperative long-term repercussions, prominently, the increasing alignment between Moscow and Beijing. Generals in Myanmar have called Russia’s actions “the right thing to do.”

India abstained from a United Nations Security Council resolution to condemn the attack. China has refused to call the assault on Ukraine an invasion. And in Vietnam, Putin is being affectionately referred to as “Uncle Putin.” The neutrality policy of more than 35 countries is also a vivid message to the west. Russia’s total two-way trade with Southeast Asia is an estimated U.S. $25 billion. Russia barely ranks as a top-tier trading partner for any country in the region. Over 20,000 students from the South Asian countries are in Ukraine accounting for approximately 24% of total international students there. The Russia-Ukraine crisis could put the brakes on a worldwide and South Asian economic recuperation from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a net importer of commodities, South Asian countries are susceptible to towering commodity prices, rising inflation, disruptions in supply chains and increasing poverty. Economic stabilization and structural reforms could help to engineer a soft landing in South Asia. South Asia’s growth in 2022 is likely to be hit as the region is a net importer of commodities. Tourism and trade linkages are involved in smaller countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives; Russia and Ukraine are important tourism markets for these countries and furthermore Russia imports about 20% of Sri Lankan tea. As financial flows are low with Russia and Ukraine, South Asia’s financial markets are liable to be insulated from the Russia-Ukraine Conflict conflict. Pakistan sees China as its closest ally and, apparently, China’s strong pro-Russian stance on this issue also influenced Pakistan’s stance on the Ukrainian conflict. Bangladesh is also building a close relationship with China. The residue of the region has fallen somewhere close to Asia’s wishy-washy middle position, penning cautious statements rarely mentioning Russia. Neighboring countries are recalculating their sanctuary and foreign policies through the lens of Ukraine, evaluating their own security and divergence dynamics based on Russia’s new adventure in Ukraine and the West’s response.

Ukraine has become a signal case in Russia-Ukraine Conflict, with the conflict there leading to reactions throughout the countries on Russia’s border. The regional countries are vigorously taxing the new contours of Russian and Western rendezvous, regional alliances and relationships, and regional conflict dynamics. Third is the fact that Russia is a big country with a hefty sway due to its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). It is also a chief arms purveyor to the region and boasts historical ties with several nations. The divergence and consequent sanctions on Russia will not just scratch export markets to these countries, but could upset import channels too, creating bottlenecks in supply and production shortfalls. A weak Western comeback to budding conflict might bolster Russian adventurisms and peace building thornier. The range of possible goals includes, but is not limited to, changing national borders, creating frozen conflicts to weaken one or more countries, protecting vital natural resources, extending spheres of sway for trade and political purposes, increasing Russia’s international physique, deterring Western involvement in countries important to Russia, Moscow seeks to retain in its sphere of influence.

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But American and European leaders still balk on stronger measures against Russia over its Ukraine intrusion in the hopes of retaining Russian help on other foremost issues, such as the Iran nuclear talks or an ever-elusive resolution of the war in Syria. Moscow is negotiating energy supply deals with Beijing and other trade agreements to comfort the Russian public and plant doubt in Western minds about the ability to segregate Russia and thwart it from offsetting the sanctions with backing from other quarters. Russia’s ability to deploy its military forces throughout the region will be assessed and tested against its snowballing operations in Ukraine. The legacy of Moscow’s control over regional relations and the purpose of seeking to retain or reassert its role as regional power broker to maintain hegemony cannot be minimized. Many of Russia’s neighbors rely on transmittal from citizens working in Russia.

With Russia’s economic downturn, migrants will be sent home, and many sectors in neighboring countries that rely on strong trade relations with Russia will be hit hard. China Russian ties may venture for joint missions in the Indian pacific. In case of Taiwan adventure, Russia will be expectedly play the same role as that of china. The Russian venture has paved the way for Taiwan’s turn. The economic ties of China and Russia will minimize the influence of non regional factors. The ongoing situation has also demonstrated how to position during war and peace times. The Ukraine crisis has also manifested the inability and miscalculations of the U.S intelligence about Russian adventure. This will encourage China for Indo-Pacific ventures if needed. Pakistan has shown its stance by being a part of the game in peace but will follow a policy of neutrality during war. The EU’s venture of using Pakistan against Russia cut a sorry figure. Among major Asian countries, India is between the devil and the deep blue sea either to support the new ally U.S or old one Russia. The western response to Ukraine has a lesson for India not to rely on the west rather build ties with regional countries instead of non regional actors. The prolonged U.S sanctions on Russia will really derail a promising change in trajectory in U.S.-India relations.

In Asia, the reaction has been far more mixed due to Russia-Ukraine Conflict. But at least in some ways, Russia’s incursion is intimidating, a lightning-quick reshape of Asian geopolitics, forcing even some countries who characteristically attempt for impartiality in great power conflicts off the sidelines. Vietnam – Russia’s largest regional trading associate in supreme value still trades more annually with Cambodia. Russia has almost no foreign direct investment in the region, the largest being an offshore oilfield in Vietnam. Russia has been the largest supplier of weapons to the junta since Feb. 1, 2021.

By: Prof Abdul Shakoor Shah

The Writer is Prof. in English and Freelance Columnist, based in Lahore, Pakistan     
Prof.abdulshakoorsyed@gmail.com