India for world peace
IANS | 21 Jan, 2023
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One of the great foreign policy feats of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is
that he stood upfront on the military conflict between Russia and
Ukraine -- sparked by the launch of Russian military operation in
February 2022 to support the Russian-speaking eastern provinces of
Ukraine against the alleged suppression of their rights by Ukraine --
and took a line that both sides had concerns which should be resolved
through peaceful negotiations.
The US-led West joined
the fray in support of Ukraine amid appeals from President Volodymyr
Zelensky for grant of NATO membership to Ukraine and the conflict went
on to assume the proportions of a 'war' with no end in sight.
US and its allies are merely supplying arms, ammunition and
sophisticated war material to Ukraine, creating an impression that they
were conducting a 'proxy war' against Russia.
It is possible that
the US saw in its strategy a parallel with the anti-Soviet armed
campaign in Afghanistan that had ultimately led to the withdrawal of the
Soviet army and the demise of the USSR.
However, it is becoming
increasingly clear that Vladimir Putin's Russia is not getting worn down
and it is Ukraine that is taking the real hit in terms of loss of life
President Putin has referred to the effectiveness of
tactical nuclear weapons, but clearly not betrayed any desperation about
using them in this conflict. He is still pursuing the original aim of
protecting the eastern provinces of Ukraine closely identified with
Russian interests and has again gone on record to claim that he wants to
end the conflict.
The total scene around this military
confrontation of geopolitical significance suggests that it is still not
an irreversible case for return to peace. What is needed is a credible
global level mediation acceptable to both sides.
It is noteworthy
that beyond the UN that faced resolutions critical of Putin in the
Ukraine- Russia conflict, India's position as a possible mediator
acceptable to both sides, has been acknowledged more than once by the
unbiased sections of the international community.
Modi became the first world leader to call for cessation of hostilities
and recourse to peaceful negotiation to resolve the Ukraine-Russia
conflict. He told the Russian President that 'this is not an era of
war', and subsequently voiced India's firm opposition to use of nuclear
weapons when there were speculations about possible induction of
tactical nuclear missiles by Putin to achieve his goal in the war with
These responses made India the sane voice in the world
and established Prime Minister Modi as a global counsel on issues of war
Modi has spoken to the two Presidents more than once
and has kept up hopes in the prospects of return to peace sooner than
The success of India's foreign policy in the Modi regime
can be measured by the fact that India's friendly bonds with Russia do
not come in the way of the deep and natural strategic friendship of
India with the US, which was the hallmark of convergence between the two
largest democracies of the world and - what is even more significant -
by the fact that US President Joe Biden and Putin both understood
India's geopolitical position.
Interestingly, Putin now taking
decisions on the readings of his own intelligence set up would be doing
so with much greater confidence since he has a first-hand experience of
the flaws and strong points of the latter and perhaps could see things
in the wider global perspective even better than before.
attempt at mediation between Russia and Ukraine can hope to succeed only
if the background of the conflict is clearly understood and steps
recommended to establish lasting trust among the two neighbours
When the Cold War ended consequent on the
dismemberment of USSR and the termination of the Warsaw Pact, the
emergence of East European states as independent nations, besides the
rise of Central Asian Republics (CARs), left the residual Soviet Russia
as a much smaller empire.
The US-led West might have done well to
work for peaceful coexistence between Russia and its neighbours.
Certainly, a high-pitch combative alliance like NATO did not hold the
earlier ground as American hostility towards Russia did not have to
exist at the level of the Cold War era.
In fact, in the unipolar
world order, the US was expected to work for world peace while
militarily safeguarding American interests across the globe.
US President Donald Trump treated Russia at par with European nations
and seemed to have little problem with Putin - he was in the process
able to deal with China on a stronger note of military and economic
The advent of Biden Presidency saw a reversal of US
attitude towards Russia - this could be in part because of the
controversy that the crucial Presidential poll had left behind on the
issue of Russian 'interference' in the American elections.
declared Russia as the prime adversary for the US and underlined the
trans-Atlantic alliance with Europe in a manner that underscored the
continued use of NATO as a deterrent against Russia.
Putin's action against Ukraine gave Biden a justifiable ground for confronting Russia.
Ukraine-Russia conflict precipitated in February 2022 as Putin ordered
'military operation' in eastern Ukraine, ostensibly to safeguard the
rights of the Russian speaking population there in the face of a
simmering agitation continuing in those parts.
rapidly worsened because of the declared policy of Zellensky to seek
NATO membership to militarily respond to Russia and the decision of the
US-led West to join the Ukrainian side by pumping in arms and ammunition
The backdrop of the continuing tension between
Russia and Ukraine going back to the annexation of Crimea by Russia in
2014 - with the West beginning the spell of sanctions on Russia to
express its support to Ukraine then - is also linked to the aggravation
of the Russia-Ukraine military conflict this time.
development regarding Crimea - a territory of vast strategic import for
Russia on the Black Sea - had preceded an anti-Russia uprising there in
which Islamic fundamentalists blessed by the West had played a major
Significantly, Putin also supported Syrian President Assad
in the 'civil war' precipitated by Islamic militants against him - with
Russia might have been specially sensitive to the
'destabilisation' of Crimea because of what the USSR had experienced in
Afghanistan - perhaps Putin considered it legitimate to get the
territory 'back to Russia' since it was earlier 'gifted' by Nikita
Khrushchev to Ukraine internally, according to some authentic accounts.
whole point is that there was no push back on the part of the West from
the Cold War confrontation even after the USSR had collapsed in 1991
and international Communism on which it rested, had ended.
international team of negotiators, including Indian representatives, can
start a dialogue with Ukraine and Russia with their consent.
mentioned earlier, mediators have to acknowledge the security concerns
of the two warring nations and try to find their redressal in a mutual
peace agreement that neighbours with different governance models could
An immediate ceasefire pending a negotiated settlement
would be necessary and supply of armament and ammunition to Ukraine
from outside would has to be halted.
Restoration of democratic
government in Ukraine based on 'one man one vote' and equal rights for
all citizens regardless of language, community and region is extremely
Ukraine must declare that it is not seeking NATO
membership. Lifting of sanctions against Russia may be considered
consequent on a withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine to their side
of the border.
An effective peace pact between Russia and Ukraine
governing their future relationship should be the final outcome of the
The US would do well not to create a geopolitical
situation where Russia and China would jointly deal with the West and
accelerate the reemergence of Cold War between two matching powers.
will, among other things, impede the processes of international
economic cooperation already set in motion. The virtual summit between
Putin and Xi Jinping on December 30 reaffirmed that Russia-China
strategic friendship is deepening further and blamed those who were,
according to them, instigating the Cold War mentality.
meeting acquires special significance in the backdrop of the ongoing
Russia-Ukraine military conflict. The polarisation between the US-led
West and China-Russia combine will no more be totally 'ideological',
considering the 'Sinicization of Marxism' initiated by Xi Jinping and
the emphasis placed on Russian national pride by Putin, and this would
minimise the possibility of internal differences cropping up among them
over claims on Marxist-Leninist thought.
The two countries shared
a system of dictatorship that opposed the US - and this in fact would
act as the more important binding element for them.
As far as
India is concerned, Indo-Russia friendship is one reason why China at
least pretends that it wants to maintain good relations with India.
has to watch out against China continuing to practice its 'two steps
forward one step backward' policy in spite of such pretences.
the final analysis, the US and Europe should work to return to democracy
in all countries that were once a part of the USSR. This will be a
useful long-term strategy for the US to maintain its geopolitical hold
and global acceptability.
Enlargement of the democratic order can
be an effective counter to Chinese expansionism and Russia's possible
strategic aim of bringing back the former USSR territories under its
This provides an additional non-military route for the US for maintaining its supremacy as the leader of the democratic world.
Minister Modi's mandate that 'this is not an era of war' in fact
strengthens Biden's hands. India must continue to press for a peace
negotiation between Russia and Ukraine without any preconditions being
set by either side.
(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau. The views expressed are personal)
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