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Russia-Ukraine war not economic or political issue, Modi tells Zelenskyy as conflict casts its shadow on India's G20 presidency

Kyiv seeks India's help in demining conflict zones in Ukraine
nirban Bhaumik
Last Updated : 20 May 2023, 19:45 IST
Last Updated : 20 May 2023, 19:45 IST
Last Updated : 20 May 2023, 19:45 IST
Last Updated : 20 May 2023, 19:45 IST

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that he did not view Russia’s special military operations in the East European nation as a political or economic issue.

Zelenskyy, on the other hand, briefed Modi about his peace formula and asked for India’s help in demining operations in the conflict zones in Ukraine. He also enquired if India could provide Ukraine with mobile hospitals to be deployed on the battlefields for taking care of the soldiers injured while resisting the invasion by Russia.

He also invited the prime minister of India to visit Ukraine, Foreign Secretary V M Kwatra told journalists later.

“I do not view it as a political or an economic issue. For me, it is an issue of humanity, of human values,” Modi told Zelenskyy as the two leaders had a bilateral meeting on the sideline of the G7 summit in Hiroshima. It was the first in-person meeting between the two leaders after Russia launched its military operations in Ukraine on February 24 last year.

The prime minister’s comment was apparently intended to subtly convey, not only to Kyiv but also to Washington DC and the rest of the West, that India would not like the Russia-Ukraine conflict to overshadow the forthcoming G20 summit, which it would host on September 9 and 10.

The G20 is the premier forum for international economic cooperation.

The tension between Moscow and the Western nations over Russia’s “special military operations” in Ukraine already cast its long shadow over India’s G20 presidency, which commenced in December 2022. Russia and China blocked the joint statements, which were expected to be issued after the meeting of the G20 finance ministers and the central bank governors in Bengaluru in February and the meeting of the foreign ministers of the bloc in New Delhi in March. India had to issue summaries by the chairs after both meetings, clarifying that Russia and China had not endorsed the paragraphs condemning the former Soviet Union nation’s military aggression against Ukraine.

New Delhi is now concerned over the possibility of the geopolitical tension triggered by the conflict eclipsing other issues on the agenda of the next summit of the G20.

“I wish to assure you that India and I, in my personal capacity, will do whatever is possible to find a solution to this (conflict),” Modi told Zelenskyy, who sought India’s participation in the implementation of the peace plan proposed by Ukraine to end the conflict with Russia.

He also promised that India would continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine.

“You know more than any of us what is the suffering of war but when our students came back from Ukraine last year, the description of the circumstances they gave then, I could understand the pain felt by you and Ukrainian citizens,” Modi told Zelenskyy. He appreciated Kyiv’s cooperation with New Delhi for the safe evacuation of the students and citizens of India from Ukraine. He welcomed the decision by the institutions in Ukraine to allow students to appear for examinations in India.

India has been drawing flak from the United States and other Western nations for not condemning Russia for its military operations in Ukraine.

Kyiv has been nudging New Delhi to invite Zelenskyy to the G20 summit, which will be hosted by Modi. New Delhi, however, has so far refrained from committing an invitation to the President of Ukraine, apparently to avoid hurting the sensitivity of India’s decades-old strategic partner Russia. President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit New Delhi to attend the G20 summit although he had not attended the bloc’s conclave at Bali in Indonesia last year. Ukraine is not a member of the G20 too. But Zelenskyy had attended the G20 summit in Bali as Indonesian President Joko Widodo had invited him.

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Published 20 May 2023, 13:06 IST

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