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Worried about impact of Russia-Ukraine conflict on Global South: Modi

'I have said that it is not an era of war', Modi iterated.
Last Updated : 13 July 2023, 11:00 IST

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India is deeply concerned about the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war, especially on the countries of the Global South, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, asserting that the conflict must end.

In an interview to French newspaper Les Echos, he said India has always stood for peaceful resolution of differences through dialogue and diplomacy, and for respecting the sovereignty of all nations while replying to questions about an "aggressive" China.

To a query on China and if its massive investment in its defence capabilities is threatening the security of the region, Modi said while peace is necessary for the future India seeks to build, it is far from assured.

"Our interests in the Indo-Pacific region are vast, and our engagement is deep. I have described our vision for this region in one word – SAGAR, which stands for Security and Growth for All in the Region. While peace is necessary for the future we seek to build, it is far from assured," he said.

India stands for respective international laws and the rules-based international order, he said.

"This is more important than ever for maintaining mutual trust and confidence. We believe that it is through this that a positive contribution can be made towards lasting regional and global peace and stability," he added.

On the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the prime minister said he has spoken several times with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine to underscore India's willingness to support all genuine efforts that can help bring this conflict to an end.

"India's stand has been clear, transparent and consistent. I have said that it is not an era of war. We have urged both sides to resolve issues through dialogue and diplomacy," he said.

Modi on Thursday left for France where he will be the Guest of Honour at the Bastille Day celebrations.

With the West nudging India to take a stronger stand against Russia over the conflict, the prime minister reiterated that all countries have an obligation to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries, to abide by international law and to adhere to the UN charter.

"We are also deeply concerned about the impact of the conflict on the wider world, especially the Global South. Countries already suffering from the impact of the Covid pandemic now face energy, food and health crisis, economic slowdown, inflation and rising debt burden. The conflict must end," he said.

To a question about India's expectations from France in terms of strategic support in the stand-off with China, Modi said the partnership between the two countries, including in the Indo-Pacific region, is not directed against or at the expense of any country.

India and France have a broad-based and comprehensive strategic partnership that encompasses political, defence, security, economic, human-centric development and sustainability cooperation, he noted.

"When countries with similar vision and values work together, bilaterally, in plurilateral arrangements or in regional institutions, they can deal with any challenge. Our partnership, including in the Indo-Pacific region, is not directed against, or at the expense of any country," he said.

Our aim is to safeguard our economic and security interests, ensure freedom of navigation and commerce, and advance the rule of international law in the region, the prime minister said.

"We work with other countries to develop their capabilities and support their efforts to make free sovereign choices. More broadly, we aim to advance peace and stability in the region," he asserted.

The prime minister's comments came amid rising global concerns about China's aggression. The ties between India and China have been strained following the Glawan clashes in eastern Ladakh in 2020.

Asserting that rights of the Global South, a reference to developing countries which are mostly in the southern hemisphere, have been long denied, he said collective strength and leadership for the bloc is needed so that its voice can become stronger.

"I see India being that strong shoulder that if Global South has to make that high jump, India can be that shoulder to propel it ahead. For the Global South, India can also build its linkages with Global North. So, in that sense this shoulder can become this bridge of sorts," he said.

What is needed is that this shoulder, bridge is strengthened so that linkages between the North and South can become stronger and the Global South can itself become stronger, he said.

Asked if he considered India the natural leader of the Global South, Modi downplayed the suggestion and said the world 'leader' is quite heavy and his country should not arrogate or assume any position.

With India and France marking the 25th anniversary of their strategic partnership, Modi said the relationship between the two countries is in excellent shape.

"It is strong, trusted, consistent. It has been steady and resilient in the darkest storms. It has been bold and ambitious in looking for opportunities. The level of mutual trust and confidence we share is unmatched. It stems from shared values and vision," he said.

Both countries share a strong sense of strategic autonomy and have deep commitment to international law, he said, asserting that both seek a multi-polar world and have an unwavering faith in multilateralism.

Noting that their partnership in sensitive areas like space and defence go back to five decades and more, he said it was a phase when the West did not have a friendly disposition towards India.

The prime minister then added, "So, it is not a surprise that France was the first Western country with which we declared a Strategic Partnership. That was a difficult time for the world, including for India. Since then our relationship has transformed into a partnership that is important not just for our two countries, but is of great geopolitical consequence."

Since coming to office in 2014, he said he has placed special emphasis on the strategic partnership with France.

Describing the two countries as two major resident powers in the Indian Ocean region, he said theirs is one of the key partnerships in influencing the course of the Indo-Pacific region.

Our partnership aims to advance a free, open, inclusive, secure and stable Indo-Pacific region, working together and with others in the region who share our vision, he said.

"There is a strong defence and security component that extends from the seabed to space. It also seeks to help other countries in the region and strengthen the regional institutions for security cooperation and norm-setting," he said.

Both countries are working together not just to strengthen India's defence industrial base and our joint operational capabilities but will also collaborate to support the security needs of other countries, including on defence equipment, he said.

"But, it goes beyond that. It involves the full range of economic, connectivity, human development and sustainability initiatives. These will draw other countries into shared endeavours of prosperity and peace. This partnership opens great possibilities for regional cooperation," he said.

Beyond the Indian Ocean region, they will increasingly coordinate and cooperate in the Pacific region as well, he said.

He also strongly batted for reforms in the UN Security Council, saying the global body in particular epitomises the dissonance in the changed world.

"How can we talk of it as a primary organ of a global body, when entire continents of Africa and Latin America are ignored? How can it claim to speak for the world when its most populous country, and its largest democracy, is not a permanent member," he asked.

Its skewed membership leads to opaque decision-making processes, which adds to its helplessness in addressing the challenges of today, he added.

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Published 13 July 2023, 11:00 IST

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