Ukraine pitches for Indian participation in Swiss peace conference

GS Paper II

News Excerpt:

During his visit to New Delhi, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed the hope that India will join a peace summit hosted by Switzerland and also play a role in bringing Russia to the table.

Importance of the Ukrainian Minister’s visit:

  • It is the first such high-level visit from Ukraine since the Russian attacks began in February 2022.
  • The visit indicates a shift in both New Delhi and Kiev’s positions on bilateral relations.
    • Ukraine had earlier been deeply critical of India’s purchases of Russian oil.
      • In August 2022, when India was buying Russian oil at discounted prices, Ukrainian FM had famously said: “Every barrel of Russian crude that India gets, has a good portion of Ukrainian blood in it.”
      • India had defended its decision saying that it was trying to cushion the inflationary impact of the energy prices on the Indian economy and its citizens.
    • The Indian Government has also not sent any Minister to Kiev since the war began, and did not invite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to address the G-20 summit in 2023.
  • Ukraine believes that there is a “change in the perspective” in India’s position on the war now, and hopes that India would play a more proactive role in resolving the conflict through the Ukraine-initiated Swiss peace process.
  • The visit is expected to focus on garnering diplomatic and mediatory support from the Indian government, as well as more technical assistance in reconstructing destroyed facilities in Ukraine.

Swiss Peace Conference:

  • Switzerland has agreed to host a global peace summit on Ukraine at the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
    • Neutral Switzerland has previously acted as a broker to resolve conflicts and could now help find a resolution for the Russia-Ukraine war.
  • The Swiss government has formally invited India to participate in the conference, currently expected to be held in June.
  • Neither the dates of the summit nor the level of participation has been announced by Switzerland which poses a challenge for India since it is in election mode until June 4. India has so far not responded to the invitation. 
  • Earlier Zelenskyy had sought India’s support for his 10-point “peace formula”, which calls for withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, release of prisoners, restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and guarantees on nuclear safety, food and energy security.

India’s stand on Russia-Ukraine war:

  • India has sought to maintain a diplomatic balancing act between Russia and Ukraine. 
  • While India has not explicitly condemned the Russian invasion, it called for an international probe into the Bucha massacre and expressed concern over nuclear threats issued by Russian leaders.
  • At the UN Security Council, India has taken a nuanced position and abstained from voting against Russia in several resolutions. 
  • Prime Minister Modi had told Russian President Vladimir Putin in September 2022 that “this is not the era of war”, the same statement was echoed in the G20 summit statement in Bali in Nov 2022.
  • India has maintained its stand that dialogue and diplomacy are the way forward toward the resolution of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

India’s aid to Ukraine:

  • Since the war broke out between Russia and Ukraine, India has sent 15 consignments of humanitarian assistance which include medicine, medical equipment, blankets, tents, tarpaulin, solar lamps, dignity kits, sleeping mats, and diesel generator sets. 
  • The Indian Government has also provided financial assistance for the reconstruction of a school in Kyiv. 
  • Funds have also been provided for the training of teachers from three schools in Kyiv to support the psychological health of Ukrainian children and youth.

India-Ukraine Trade:

  • Bilateral trade between the two countries has grown significantly in the last 25 years, reaching US $3.386 billion in 2021-22.
  • But the trade suffered a setback in the last two years of the war.
  • Both countries are aiming to get the trade back to earlier levels. Both sides have agreed to prepare for the 7th IGC (Intergovernmental Commission) meeting later this year.

Significance of Ukraine reaching out to India: 

  • The significance of Mr Kuleba’s visit to India extends beyond bilateral relations amidst the geopolitical upheaval. 
  • It reminds us of the urgent need for collective action in pursuit of peace. 
  • As nations grapple with the complexities of conflict resolution, solidarity and cooperation emerge as the hallmarks of a more just and equitable world order. 
  • Ultimately, the success of Ukraine’s peace efforts depends both on diplomatic negotiations and the unwavering commitment of the international community to uphold the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and human rights. 
  • Ukraine demonstrates to the world, unity in the face of adversity by extending a hand of friendship to India. 

Diplomatic challenges for India in the ongoing conflict:

  • In an increasingly interconnected world, where alliances shift and allegiances evolve, India’s diplomatic manoeuvring underscores the complexity of its foreign policy calculus. 
  • The surge in Indian purchases of Russian oil, despite global condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, raises questions about India’s stance on the crisis.
    • Economic considerations factor into India’s decision-making process, and ethical implications of tacitly supporting an aggressor can’t be overlooked. 
    • India faces the challenge of reconciling its strategic interests with its moral obligations on the world stage, as it eyes global leadership. 

Way Forward:

  • For India, navigating the complex waters of international diplomacy requires a delicate balance of pragmatism and principle. 
  • India has a historical strategic relationship with Moscow, leading to strong economic and defence connections with Russia.
    • However, with the ongoing struggle in Ukraine for sovereignty and self-determination, India faces a dilemma between loyalty to Russia and supporting principles of sovereignty and peace.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent phone calls with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskky and Russian President Vladimir Putin signal India’s willingness to engage with stakeholders on all sides of the conflict. 

Conclusion:

In a world fraught with geopolitical tensions, every diplomatic move holds the potential for significant ramifications. The visit of the Ukrainian Foreign Minister to India is a testament to the delicate dance of international relations, where alliances are tested and decisions carry weight beyond borders.