India must remain a friend to both Russia and Ukraine and needs to maintain close ties with Moscow and Kyiv to mitigate the predicament of the Indians presently stranded in Ukraine.
War invariably inflicts untold miseries on humanity. The current Russian war on Ukraine is no exception. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing well to stop it. He has been in touch with Russian and Ukrainian Presidents Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky and appealed to go in for a ceasefire in their war and establish peace in the region.
The good news is there have of late been positive signs on the diplomatic horizons. A couple of days back, Moscow and Kyiv agreed to send their negotiators to meet on the Belarussian- Ukrainian border and hold talks without any preconditions. New Delhi must further activate its diplomacy to establish peace between Russia and Ukraine.
It is disheartening to note that Putin has of late pursued a policy of aggressive nationalism in the region. Early this year, Russian troops intervened in Kazakhstan to squash mass anti-government protests. Putin referred to Kazakhstan as "a Russian-speaking country."
The other day, Moscow announced to recognise two breakaway Ukrainian republics, Donetsk and Luhansk, both of which have a considerable presence of Russian speakers. In 2008, Russia recognised two breakaway republics in Georgia. In 2014 it annexed Crimea.
As an old friend of Moscow, New Delhi could drive home to it that it must discard its current aggressive approach and respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. At the same time, India could use its status as an important member of the Quadrilateral dialogue forum and as the world's largest democracy to appeal to the United States and NATO not to ignore Russia's legitimate security concerns in the region.
New Delhi could also use its growing ties with the US and the European Union to advise them to refrain from imposing any new sanctions against Russia. The history of sanctions in the world shows such measures do little to change the ways of any ruling elites. The sanctions hurt the masses alone.
Needless to say, India must remain a friend to both Russia and Ukraine. Russia has been India's time-tested defence and strategic partner. Moscow has always backed New Delhi's stand on the Kashmir issue at the United Nations. Today, New Delhi needs Moscow very much to meet some of its challenges in the continental sphere.
On the other hand, Ukraine has been friendly to India ever since it emerged as an independent nation in 1992. It is well documented that the two nations have signed several agreements, including on Co-operation in Science and Technology, Foreign Office Consultation, Co-operation in Space Research, Avoidance of Double Taxation and Promotion and Protection of Investments.
The main items Ukraine imports from India include drugs, ores and minerals, tobacco products, tea, coffee, spices, silk and jute. The main items India imports from Ukraine include chemicals, equipment, machines and engines. India today is Ukraine's largest export destination in the Asia-Pacific. It is Ukraine's fifth largest overall export destination. New Delhi and Kyiv have had very strong diplomatic ties as well. Ukraine has supported India's stands on the issues of Kashmir and United Nations reforms.
Most importantly, New Delhi needs to maintain close ties with Moscow and Kyiv to mitigate the predicament of the Indians presently stranded in Ukraine.
(The author is a Delhi-based journalist)