Ukraine-India: electoral context and partnership prospects

February 06, 2024

Yaryna Loyik, Razumkov Centre, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv

The year of 2024 may be a year of global change. National elections will be held in more than 40 countries around the world. About 40% of the world's population will go to the polls, which is an unprecedented quantity. The list includes the US, the EU, Great Britain, Romania, Moldova, Mexico, India and many others.

Elections to the Parliament of India, which will take place in April-May 2024, are surely important. About 900 million Indian citizens can participate in the vote. All 543 members of the Lok Sabha will be elected in single-member constituencies under the majority system.

Noteworthy, the previous elections in 2019 demonstrated firm support for the Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People's Party, BJP) of the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi: the BJP won 37.36% of votes (the highest figure since 1989) and secured 303 seats in the Parliament, enough to form the government.

In 2024, two coalitions will compete for the election victory: the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the Indian National Inclusive Development Alliance (INDIA). NDA is a centre-right coalition of political parties, the largest being the Bharatiya Janata Party. This is a right-wing party, often called the party of Hindu nationalism. Therefore, the party is the most supported in the northern and western states, where Hindus make the majority, actively supporting the national identity, the caste system and Hinduism.                                  

The Indian National Inclusive Development Alliance (INDIA) is a centre-left coalition of political parties, the largest of them being the Indian National Congress (INC). The INC is a party of the centre that upholds the ideas of social equality, economic liberalism, freedom of expression and equal opportunities for all. The party enjoys the greatest support in the country’s south. 

Overall, Narendra Modi's popularity among the Indian population is undeniable. In one of the latest articles for the British periodical "The Guardian", its correspondent H. Ellis-Petersen called the victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party almost inevitable. Recent polls only confirm this suggestion. But it should be noted that during the premiership of Modi, the problems of democratic development, open society, corruption, etc. seriously aggravated. A third term of office for the BJP and Modi will bring a number of difficulties and challenges, including the problem of relations between the Hindu and Muslim communities.

It is worth adding that Modi's popularity to a large extent rests on his foreign policy. The current government and the population believe that India is becoming an increasingly important international actor. A large-scale government campaign for India's chairmanship in the G20 was timed for this. Speaking about India's place in the international stage, it is worth noting that the country greatly depends on Russian energy resources and weapons, and is one of its largest trade partners. However, mass media report that India plans to cut its military-technical partnership with Russia, as the latter's ability to supply ammunition and spare parts has significantly decreased due to the war in Ukraine. India plans to focus on domestic arms production, in line with Narendra Modi's policy. At the same time, imports of Russian crude oil to India has been decreasing for the second month in a row due to the toughening of Western sanctions. Specifically, its oil imports fell by 4.2% and, according to forecasts, will decrease further. India has been increasingly cautious in its engagement with Russia, while strengthening ties with the US in an effort to counter China's global influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

What should Ukraine expect from the victory of the BJP? Most likely, there will be no significant changes in relations between Ukraine and India. India will continue to trim between Washington and Moscow, taking a neutral position on the war in Ukraine. But one way or another, Kyiv needs to find new ways and mechanisms to improve and develop relations with India. Its role as a nuclear power in the implementation of the Peace Formula, in particular, its provisions on nuclear safety, is particularly important.

Other important lines of cooperation are those where both states show interest and can be useful to each other: export of agricultural produce, pharmaceuticals and medicines, cooperation in the defence sector, and high-tech industries. By and large, enhancement of cooperation and partnership with India can be a significant gain for our state, both diplomatically and economically.