A-Moral Power? India's Public and State Discourse During the Ukraine War

CEURUS Public Lecture by Amit Julka, Ashoka University (India)

19 May 2023

The lecture will be held at 12:15 - 14:00, at Lossi 36, room 307, and is open to everyone interested in the topic.

The West has often seen India's response to the Ukraine invasion as ambivalent, with a suspicion of a subtle pro-Russia tilt. Many analysts have pointed out both the material and ideational imperatives that have influenced India's position - dependence on Russian arms, fears of resource insecurity, challenges in the neighbourhood, and a lingering perception of Moscow as a reliable friend. These, coupled with India's uneasy relationship with the US-led liberal order have been rightly seen as some of the drivers of Indian foreign policy vis-a-vis Ukraine. However, while these assessments are correct, they are also incomplete. Equally important to understanding New Delhi's stance is India's somewhat 'unique' colonial experience as well as the recent changes in its domestic politics under Modi. In this talk, Dr Julka will explain how India's memory of the colonial rule produces both a memory of victimhood as well as civilizational exceptionalism, and how this has helped the current regime project a moral framework of 'nation-first' when it comes to Ukraine. This also helps make foreign policy an important tool of legitimacy in domestic politics, both for the government vis-a-vis the people as well as intra-elite competition within the state.

Amit Julka is an Assistant Professor at India's Ashoka University Department of International Relations. He completed his PhD from the Department of Political Science at the National University of Singapore, using Gramscian and Bourdieusian theory to conceptualize and operationalize common sense as an analytical lens to understand the role of the masses in influencing a country’s foreign policy in his doctoral research. Prior to his PhD, Amit received Masters in South Asian Area Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. In addition to his academic work at Ashoka University, Amit is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively titled “The Evolution of Indian National Identity, 1950-2020”, seeking to provide a qualitative and quantitative analysis of India’s national identity based on popular texts in English and Hindi.

The lecture is organised by the Centre for Eurasian and Russian Studies (CEURUS) of the University of Tartu.

More information: Jan Terentjev,