Ukraine crisis a testing time for Modi - GulfToday

Ukraine crisis a testing time for Modi

BRP Bhaskar

@brpbhaskar

Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.

Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertook more travels abroad than any other world leader in the past decade, trying to make friends and influence people. All the friendship he cultivated was of little avail when he faced a foreign policy test last week.

As the Ukraine crisis was brewing, all the parties involved, Russia, the United States and its European allies and hapless Ukraine, which was caught between them, publicly voiced the hope that India would back them. But India remained silent.

India had reasons to be silent. Both Russia and the US are countries with which it has been building strategic relationships.

The Soviet Union was a major supplier of military hardware to India. As its successor, Russia remains a source to which India still turns, although the US and other Western powers are now more willing than before to help meet its military requirements. Four S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile systems, which India had ordered a few years ago, are now in the pipeline.

In the eight years that he has been in office, Modi made a heavy political investment in improving ties with the US. This has resulted in the formation of a four-nation alliance called the Quad. Apart from India and the US, the group includes Japan and Australia.

Modi and his political camp were critical of the policy of Non-alignment outlined by India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in the context of the Big Power rivalry that developed after World War II. Ironically, when the chips were down, they willy-nilly gravitated towards non-alignment of sorts.

When the US and its allies moved a resolution in the UN Security Council, calling upon Russia to withdraw unconditionally from Ukraine, India, currently a member of that body, abstained. China and the United Arab Emirates also abstained.

Momentarily India earned the displeasure of all those who were expecting its support.

Ukraine raised the issue of morality. India explained that it had acted in its own best interests and it needed no advice on morality.

The war was not unexpected. For weeks, US President Joe Biden had been shouting that Russia was preparing for war. But he did not do anything to avert it.

Russia denied Biden’s charge but the military exercises it conducted in neighbouring Belarus belied its disclaimer.

The trust that the rival camps appeared to repose in India as a nation and Modi as a world leader offered an opportunity for the country to make an effort to help them resolve their differences amicably. Nothing of that kind happened.

Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union and, earlier, of the Czar’s empire.

There may be sentiments in Russia in favour of putting Humpty Dumpty together again. But President Vladimir Putin must realise that restoration of the lost empire is not a desirable objective in today’s conditions.

At the same time those who put the blame for the present crisis on Putin are being less than honest. The immediate cause of the crisis is not Russians’ imperial nostalgia but the US desire to enlarge its sphere of influence by drawing Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The US game brings back memories of George F. Kennan’s containment theory of the Cold War era.

The Russian army had an easy run initially, but Ukraine was able to maintain its hold on the capital, Kiev.

Ukraine’s hope that US and its allies will rush to its help did not materialise. They limited their involvement to imposing sanctions against Russia and possibly clandestine arms supplies.

On Sunday, a delegation which Russia sent to Belarus began talks with a Ukraine delegation nominated by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

As in Afghanistan, so in Ukraine, the Modi regime was slow in deciding on evacuation of Indian nationals. By the time the decision was taken, Russian troops had moved in and Ukraine had closed its air space. As a result stranded Indians, many of them medical students, had to cross the border, sometimes walking long distances and spending nights in freezing temperatures.

To avoid such situations, the government must speed up decision-making in such matters.

The Prime Minister compounded the government’s failure in this regard by offering a piece of gratuitous advice: Indian students should not go to small countries to study medicine.

Indian students are going to foreign universities in increasing numbers as they can acquire the degree at half the cost payable to private colleges in the country. Incidentally, Ukraine enjoys a high reputation as a medical education destination.

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