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Why did India refrain from signing Ukraine declaration at peace talks in Switzerland?

India was among a handful of countries at the Swiss peace summit that did not sign the final communique on Ukraine. India has repeatedly emphasised 'dialogue and diplomacy' in resolving the conflict and has called for practical engagement of both parties for further peace talks.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New Delhi Updated on: June 17, 2024 20:17 IST
PM Modi with Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Image Source : NARENDRA MODI (X) Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Ukraine peace talks: More than 90 countries participated in the Summit for peace in Ukraine held in Switzerland and many of them signed the final communique calling for respect for Kyiv's territorial sovereignty and demanding Russia to withdraw its forces. However, a handful of countries refrained from signing the declaration, including India, which has repeatedly called for 'dialogue and diplomacy' in resolving the conflict.

India joined Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates in opting out of signing the communique. Western powers and other nations pushed for a consensus on how to end the war in Ukraine, but some countries expectedly refused to back its final conclusions, paving an uncertain path ahead, and there was no clarity on whether future talks would involve Russia. 

Moscow had labelled the summit a waste of time and instead put forward rival proposals. Many Western leaders voiced condemnation of the invasion and rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin's demands for parts of Ukraine as a condition for peace. Putin said he would order an "immediate" ceasefire if Kyiv starts withdrawing from four regions occupied by Moscow's forces and renounces its plans to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

What did India say on Ukraine declaration?

In an official statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said that the Indian delegation led by Pavan Kapoor, Secretary (West), had attended the opening and closing plenary sessions of the Swiss summit and did not associate itself with any communique/document emerging from the high-level discussions on peace in Ukraine.

"India’s participation in the Summit, as well as in the preceding NSA/Political Director-level meetings based on Ukraine’s Peace Formula, was in line with our consistent approach to facilitate a lasting and peaceful resolution to the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy. We continue to believe that such a resolution requires a sincere and practical engagement between the two parties to the conflict," the Ministry said.

India pledged to remain engaged with all stakeholders as well as both the parties (Russia and Ukraine) to contribute to all earnest efforts to bring an abiding peace to the conflicted areas. The war began with Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, with no end in sight in more than two years of the deadliest conflict in Europe since the World War II.

"Our participation in this Summit and continued engagement with all stakeholders is with a view to understanding different perspectives, approaches and options to find a way forward for a sustainable resolution of the conflict. In our view, only those options acceptable to both the parties can lead to abiding peace. In line with this approach, we have decided to avoid association with the Joint Communiqué or any other document emerging from this Summit," said Kapoor at the summit.

India's relations with Russia

India's diplomatic rightrope walk is a direct result of its longstanding strategic relationship with Russia. India has a strong dependence on Russia for defence supplies, with Moscow having supplied 65 per cent of India's weapons purchases in the last two decades. India has also resisted Western sanctions to buy Russian oil at discounted prices to curtail the inflationary impact of increasing oil prices.

Thus, India has decided to take a nuanced approach in its diplomacy aimed towards the Russia-Ukraine war. While not explicitly condemning the invasion of Ukraine, India has spoken against civilian deaths and nuclear threats issued by leaders in Russia. India has also abstained from voting against Russia in several Western-introduced resolutions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in 2022, staunchly told Putin that this is not an era of war" during an event, emphasising that a divided world would find it difficult to fight common challenges. The subtle shift in India's position on the Ukraine and Russia war was widely acclaimed by world leaders. India has also sent several consignments of humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

PM Modi's meeting with Zelenskyy

PM Modi met Zelenskyy on the sidelines of the G7 Summit on Friday, where he reiterated that India would continue to do everything within its means to support a peaceful solution to the Ukraine conflict and that the way to peace is through "dialogue and diplomacy". During the talks, PM Modi agreed to send a Secretary-level delegation for the peace talks in Switzerland.

Zelenskyy briefed PM Modi on various aspects of the Russia-Ukraine war and the Swiss peace conference. The Ukrainian President had pushed Modi for months to attend the summit, although India had not provided any confirmation before. Zelenskyy on Friday confirmed that PM Modi has sent a high-level delegation to the peace summit and thanked him for it.

During the meeting, PM Modi told Zelenskyy that India believes in a "human-centric" approach to finding a solution to the conflict in Ukraine. He described the meeting with the Ukrainian president as "very productive" and said India is eager to "further cement" bilateral relations with Ukraine.

Ukraine's peace plan launched by Zelenskyy outlines 10 proposals that encapsulate the president's step-by-step vision to end the full-scale invasion, which began in February 2022. The plan includes ambitious calls, including the withdrawal of Russian troops from occupied Ukrainian territory, the cessation of hostilities and restoring Ukraine's state borders with Russia, including Crimea. Zelenskyy has repeatedly pushed PM Modi for India's support for his 'peace formula'.

ALSO READ | India, Saudi Arabia and other countries opt out of signing Ukraine declaration in Switzerland

 

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