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Ukraine War: Increasing Impact in the Global South

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The war in Ukraine, which Russia continues to refer to as a Special Military Operation, has posed a critical dilemma for India's foreign policy. It has to choose between supporting a core legacy partner or adhering to accepted principles of international relations, which advocate avoiding war in the resolution of disputes with neighbors.

The dilemma deepened with United States and European Union sanctions on Russia – ironically all three being critical partners of New Delhi. Hedging based on national interests remained the best option for India the downside of which is not overtly evident so far. India has succeeded in convincing the West of the reasons for hedging and not siding with either party. In fact many in the Global South reflected India’s approach as the War was seen as causing serious.

Now two important events are leading to India having to take a stand, firstly the Ukraine Peace Summit being organized by Switzerland and the death of two Indians recruited by Russia for fighting in the War.

Amplifying on the government policy on these issues, Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary in a media briefing on June 12 in New Delhi related to attendance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the G 7 Summit in Italy highlighted some of the key facets of India’s policy on the War in Ukraine.

Participation in Ukraine Summit

On being questioned on India’s participation in the Ukraine Peace Summit Kwatra indicated that the level of participation is still under consideration. While the invitation is for the Prime Minister, it is anticipated that possibly India may participate at the Secretary level, though this was not indicated by the Foreign Secretary. Switzerland has indicated that 90 states, organizations have signed up for Ukraine summit from June 15-16 to promote peace in Ukraine.

In response to a question on the impact of the War in Ukraine, the Foreign Secretary highlighted how India has been emphasizing on dialogue and diplomacy while also speaking of the impact on the developing World due to economic disruptions.

Kwatra said, “As far as the impact of war is concerned, right from the time that it started, in terms of the derivative impact on food, fuel, and fertilizer availability, the challenges that it caused to the supply chain globally, and caused disruptions in the global economy, we have always been in the forefront to talk about not just the conflict, the need for dialogue and diplomacy, but also the way the conflict has impacted on the priorities and interests of the developing countries”.

He also highlighted the humanitarian assistance provided to Ukraine and others impacted by the conflict.

India would be continuously sharing this perspective with the world leaders on the sidelines, and continue to emphasize and underline the importance of dialogue and diplomacy to address that situation he said.

Death of Indian Youth in the War Zone

Coming hard on Russia for involving Indian youth in the fighting on the War in Ukraine, Shri Vinay Kwatra said. …as far as this issue is concerned, we have been in continuous and extensive discussions with Russian officials, Russian system, Russian leadership, and other parts of their system from day one. Our extensive efforts to keep Indians safe include conveying to Russian officials clearly that Indians who are in the war zone, regardless of how they have reached there, they should be brought back’.

“Whenever we have received information that a particular Indian is currently in the war zone, immediate action has been taken on that information. Contact has been made with the family, how the individual reached there has been ascertained, and discussions have been held with Russian officials to share information with them about the individual”.

Earlier the Ministry of External Affairs in a Press Statement on the loss of Indian nationals in the war in Ukraine had indicated  that the Embassy in Moscow has pressed the Russian authorities, including the Ministry of Defense, for early repatriation of mortal remains”.

Importantly the Press release sending a strong signal to Russia stated that “India has also demanded that there be a verified stop to any further recruitment of our nationals by the Russian Army. Such activities would not be in consonance with our partnership”.

While there is a domestic angle to the recruitment which the Ministry is pursuing with the Ministry of Home Affairs and related agencies and the External Affairs Ministry has urged Indian nationals to exercise caution while seeking employment opportunities in Russia.

The challenge of several youth from the region fighting for Russia and some for Ukraine is not unique to India, in fact several thousand ex-soldiers from Sri Lanka and many young men from Nepal are caught in this war. Governments of these countries are attempting to seek their release through negotiations with the Russian Ministry of Defence. These have also appealed to New Delhi for assistance in influencing Moscow due to perceived leverage.

Risk and Advisory

Firstly the outcome in the Peace Summit in Switzerland may not show the light at the end of the war tunnel given lack of Russian participation and Chinese criticism, thus it may be seen as a meet to garner sympathy for Ukraine without offering solutions acceptable to both antagonists.

On the increasing employment of youth from South Asia in the War in Ukraine, while diplomacy to seek return needs to be sustained, the governments also look at expanding avenues of employment for youth through sustaining economic growth which is the root cause for this efflux.


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