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India on Ukraine Crisis

Context:

At an emergency meeting called by the UNSC on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, India said the immediate priority was de-escalation. The meeting came after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin recognised the independence of two Russian-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. 6 takeaways from New Delhi’s statement at the UN
  2. About the Russia – Ukraine crisis
  3. What are Russia’s and the West’s interests in Ukraine?
  4. What are the Minsk agreements on the Ukraine conflict?
  5. Conclusion: For a peaceful resolution

6 takeaways from New Delhi’s statement at the UN

First:
  • India has not condemned Russia’s statement of recognition of the two separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. While India may like to portray the statement as neutral, but the western bloc, led by the United States, will not view it in that fashion.
Second:
  • India has talked about “these developments” without naming Russia’s actions at all.
  • The escalation of tension along the border of Ukraine with the Russian Federation is a matter of deep concern. These developments have the potential to undermine peace and security of the region
  • This is essentially using diplomatese to advise Russia not to take further steps that might inflame the situation further.
  • Internationally, Russia’s actions are widely seen as violation of a sovereign nation’s territorial integrity, and a breach of international law and agreements — including the Minsk Agreements of 2014 and 2015 between Kyiv and the Russian-backed separatists, and the 1994 Bucharest Memorandum, originally signed by the Russian Federation, the US, and UK, on security assurances against threats or the use of force affecting the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.
Third
  •  A major concern for India remains the 20,000-odd Indian nationals, mostly students, in Ukraine. Many of these students are enrolled in medical colleges in Ukraine.
  • New Delhi has so far issued at least three advisories — including one last week asking the students to leave the country by the earliest available flights, temporarily.
  • Some students have been asking the Indian Embassy to persuade their colleges to start classes online, so their studies are not affected.
Fourth
  •  The statement underlines India’s insistence on diplomacy, which has been articulated by the government on several occasions
Fifth
  • India has asked “all sides” to intensify diplomatic efforts to reach an amicable solution at the earliest.
  • This is again a time-tested Indian line — in which it refrains from blaming any one side for not being cooperative.
  • The West has squarely blamed Putin for the current situation, while the Russian President has said the threat to Russia from NATO’s eastward expansion is responsible for tensions.
Sixth
  •  The Indian statement did not use the words “territorial integrity and sovereignty”, which it always refers to in the context of China’s aggressive behaviour.
  • Some in the West are likely to view this as condoning the Russian action, and applying double standards.
  • But this is India’s diplomatic dilemma — India has very important strategic ties with Russia, and is dependent on it for crucial military supplies.
  • Sixty to 70 per cent of India’s military hardware is of Russian-origin — and this is a consideration it cannot overlook, especially at a time when a tense border standoff with China is ongoing.

About the Russia – Ukraine crisis

  • Despite being an independent country since 1991, as the former Soviet republic Ukraine has been perceived by Russia as being part of its sphere of influence.
  • Ukraine was one of the republics within the USSR during the cold war days, and has remained a strong ally of Russia ever since, till 2013.
  • While it was planning to sing an association agreement with the European Union in 2013, Russia sternly objected to it, leading to tensions.
  • Russia subsequently annexed “Crimea” (Russian speaking province in Ukraine) by force and declared its sovereignty over it with people’s support.
  • The Russo-Ukrainian War is an ongoing and protracted conflict between Russia and Ukraine that began in 2014, centred around the status of the Ukrainian regions of Crimea and Donbas.
  • The resultant conflict has so far claimed about 10,000 lives and displaced millions with no lasting resolution in sight.
  • Though the 2014-15 Minsk peace accords prohibited air strikes and heavy artillery firing, the dispute still prevails as a low-intensity combat.

What are Russia’s and the West’s interests in Ukraine?

  • Ukraine and Russia share hundreds of years of cultural, linguistic and familial links. As part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was the second-most powerful Soviet republic after Russia, and was crucial strategically, economically and culturally. Ever since Ukraine split from the Soviet Union, both Russia and the West have vied for greater influence in the country in order to keep the balance of power in the region in their favour.
  • For many in Russia and in the ethically Russian parts of Ukraine, the shared heritage of the countries is an emotional issue that has been exploited for electoral and military purposes.
  • For the United States and the European Union, Ukraine is a crucial buffer between Russia and the West. As tensions with Russia rise, the US and the EU are increasingly determined to keep Ukraine away from Russian control.
  • Efforts to induct Ukraine into NATO have been ongoing for many years and seems to have picked up pace recently. Russia has declared such a move a “red line”, with Moscow worried about the consequences of the US-led military alliances expanding right up to its doorstep.

What are the Minsk agreements on the Ukraine conflict?

MINSK I
  • Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists agreed a 12-point ceasefire deal in Minsk, the capital of Belarus in 2014.
  • Its provisions included prisoner exchanges, deliveries of humanitarian aid and the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
  • The agreement quickly broke down, with violations by both sides.
MINSK II
  • Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the leaders of two pro-Russian separatist regions signed a 13-point agreement in 2015 in Minsk.
  • The deal set out a series of military and political steps that remain unimplemented.
  • An immediate and comprehensive ceasefire,Withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides, Monitoring and verification by the OSCE, Dialogue on interim self-government for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and An exchange of hostages and prisoners are the primary points.

Conclusion: For a peaceful resolution

  • All the stakeholders in the ongoing crisis should focus on establishing a constructive dialogue among themselves using clear and unambiguous language.
  • The only way forward is to seek a peaceful resolution to the Russia-Ukraine conflict rather than exacerbating the reality and using quid pro quo tactics.
  • Both countries do need support from the global community, but not in a military form. There is a need for a platform (similarly to the Minsk Agreements) that will facilitate negotiation, mutual consensus and possible compromises, as well as engagement with mediators.
  • The long-term solution should be sought out in order to break the vicious cycle of animosity and misunderstanding.

-Source: Indian Express

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