India Walks Diplomatic Tightrope on Ukraine as it Brings Students Home

India has made international waves for taking a neutral stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while it aims to evacuate over 15,000 citizens stranded in the country under attack.

Sushmita Pathak

February 28, 2022

India Walks Diplomatic Tightrope on Ukraine as it Brings Students Home
NEW DELHI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 27, 2022: The second evacuation flight of Air India, carrying 250 Indian nationals stranded in Ukraine, landed at Indira Gandhi airport during the wee hours of Sunday. The flight took off from Romanian capital Bucharest on Saturday evening. (Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Srishti Sahotra spent Friday night huddled in a dingy bunker with about a dozen other people and a cat. Outside, sirens blared and explosions echoed as Russian troops advanced toward the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

“Stay alive, and hope to see you soon,” she posted on Instagram.

Sahotra is a fourth-year medical student, one of more than 15,000 Indian students in Ukraine. Ukraine has emerged as a top destination for medical education in recent years, and Indian students form the largest group of international students in Ukraine. Last week, an Air India evacuation flight from New Delhi had to return mid-way as the Ukrainian airspace closed after Russian troops began a full-scale invasion. 

Since then, students have been posting desperate pleas on social media, asking the Indian government to rescue them. 

But India is walking a diplomatic tightrope: as it brings citizens home, it is one of the few large democracies that has not officially condemned Russia, its major defense trade partner and longtime friend. India’s stance has garnered international frustration, outrage, and confusion. Some analysts are pointing out that India needs to find a future-proof plan to end its reliance on Russian military equipment.