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Monday, June 24, 2024

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Monday, June 24, 2024

India can act to end Ukraine crisis

KR Sudhaman

Maverick politician Subramanian Swamy of BJP is right when he likened to that of a circus lion India’s stand to abstain from voting on UN resolution against Russia for its aggressive war against Ukraine. Swamy in an interview said India is like a circus lion, which does not know its power. Despite having such a huge strength it will obey orders from its master, a puny man with a stick. India’s stand is similar as it does know its diplomatic strength in the comity of nations. He also drew an analogy from the Hindu mythology saying India is like Bishmapitamaha, who was silent when Draupadi was being unrobed by Guaravas in Mahabharata, knowing fully what was happening was wrong. He meant Ukraine’s case is like that of Draupadi.

For once Swamy has come out with a nice analogy while giving his views on the Russia-Ukraine war, which is yet another senseless action against humanity. Ukraine is facing the brunt of the Russian onslaught, whether justifiable or not. Usually there are no winners in any war excepting ego boosting for some. There is also no similarity between India’s absenting from voting and that of China’s. Though China too abstained, it has made it clear it will veto the resolution if it came up in the U N security council. Russia too will veto the resolution so it is immaterial if China vetoes or not, but it indicates its clear support unlike India’s which is ambivalent—neither here nor there. Some experts feel India needed to be more pro-active.
Ukraine though part of erstwhile Soviet Union before its break-up in the nineties, always believed in democratic values and democracy had its root there. But since the Russian revolution in 1917, Soviet Union and now Russia after the end of the cold war and the break-up, believed in autocratic rule, which is the norm under communist regime.

However there was some semblance of democracy in the initial stages but has tilted heavily towards authoritarianism as Vladimir Putin regime got fully established. Strangely when the Soviet Union split up during Boris Yeltsin era, Putin was part of the regime as Vice President and hence he too was party to the agreement that led to independence of Ukraine. The very person does not want such democratic regimes in its neighbourhood. This he feels could pose a threat to Russia as independent thinking in autocratic rule is not welcome.

So more than Ukraine threatening to join NATO, Russia might not like democracy to flourish in its neighbourhood. This would not augur well for autocratic regime. Now there is threat of Ukraine even joining the European Union. Lately EU has made some such offer, which may worsen the situation. The fear for Russia is that democratic countries on European side is more dangerous as it would be easier to stoke resentment against Russia. Another worrying factor is that NATO membership has grown from 16 to around 30 since the cold war.

Of course, it is understandable that India is careful in dealing with the emerging situation as Russia is time-tested friend of India and has always stood by it in times of need. This relationship is expected to continue. At the same time India’s relationship with United States too is cordial and is growing significantly. India, therefore, has to tread carefully. But India is the only country now which could play crucial role in bringing about peaceful end to this conflict in the face of its proximity to Russia, United States, European Union as well as Ukraine.

This would require a skillful handling. Instead of merely maintaining equidistance from all the players, it is time it did take a pro-active diplomatic role to end the conflict and find a just solution. India’s role will also be crucial in ensuring that a new Russia-China axis do not emerge as two autocratic countries coming together could result in a new world order. But this axis has certain inherent contradictions as China, which considers itself as number two world power is averse to treating Russia as en equal partner and wants Russia to be a junior partner. This might not be acceptable to Russia as it has remained a superpower before the Cold War. At that time only United States and the Soviet Union were the two super powers. India’s time tested Non-aligned approach can perhaps be useful in preventing this possible new Russia-China axis.

The fear of this conflict turning out into a nuclear war in the face of imminent threats from Russia is certainly exaggerated.  Military experts feel that nuclear arsenal is only a deterrent.

Even in a country like North Korea, the chain of command is not all that simple as it is made out to be and chances of such a situation emerging is very remote. Experts do not see the situation escalating beyond the conventional war. Also with talks continuing, optimists expect a solution may emerge and if not anything at least a ceasefire in the next few days or a couple of weeks. A change of leadership in Ukraine too may happen.

Market sentiments remain restrained all over the world in the face of Russia-Ukraine talks as well as EU sanctions.  Most of the European stocks are down but Asian stocks are slightly up. As stock markets are seen as barometer of the economy the picture is not all that grim in the face of talks and not all that rosy in the face of sanctions. Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is justified in being worried as the crisis could impact India’s exports. The war has come about when India’s exports are looking up this financial after several years. Both Russia and Ukraine are important for India’s farm exports. The crisis has come about at a time when India worked out a detailed plan to take India’s farm exports from present level of around to $45 billion to around $100 billion in the next few years.

There could also be some payment issue for exports cropping up with blocking of digital payment route as part of the sanctions. IPA Service

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