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India takes realistic stance at Ukraine meet

India takes realistic stance at Ukraine meet

West’s initial euphoria has given way to fatigue.

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Last Updated : 17 June 2024, 20:29 IST
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As expected, the Ukraine Summit for Peace hosted by Switzerland made no breakthroughs towards ending the 28-month war that began with Russia's invasion of its southern neighbour. Peace, or the path to it, cannot be discussed in the absence of one side to a war. Moscow was not invited to the summit, and, had it been invited, it may not have attended it either. In the end, the gathering at Bürgenstock did no more than pay lip service to Ukraine's vision of how this war can end. A joint communique, endorsed by 80 of the 99 countries that attended the summit, reaffirmed “the commitment to refraining from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, the principles of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all states, including Ukraine, within their internationally recognised borders”. The joint statement also termed as “inadmissible” any threat or use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine, demanded that shipping lanes in the Black Sea remain navigable to ensure the world's food security, and the release of prisoners.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's formula for peace is that Russia should withdraw first from its territories. Russian President Vladimir Putin is not interested. Before the summit, Putin demanded that Ukrainian troops leave four eastern Ukrainian regions partially controlled by the Russian army. The problem for Zelensky is one of asymmetry. In a stalemate war, Zelensky needs material and moral support from the world, whereas Russia, despite the sanctions against it, can stay its chosen course on its own. The initial euphoria in the West over solidarity with Ukraine has now given way to Ukraine fatigue. In Europe, economies, and voters, are hurting over the energy shortages created by the war. In the United States, influential sections of the establishment have all but accepted that Ukraine has to arrive at a compromise with Russia, perhaps cede territory to it, for a peace deal. But still, Western leaders continue to pander to Zelensky's unrealisable goal of defeating Russia with arms and money.

It was left to India, and some other countries of the Global South such as Brazil, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia, all of whom did not sign the joint statement, to enunciate the faulty underpinnings of this conference. New Delhi, which has been walking a tightrope between Russia and the West since the start of the war in February 2022, was a reluctant participant in the summit, sending a senior diplomat to mark attendance, instead of a political representative. But beyond this balancing act, India was right to state the obvious: “...only those options acceptable to both the parties can lead to abiding peace”, and any path to lasting peace “requires bringing together all stakeholders and a sincere and practical engagement between the two parties to the conflict”. Everything else is just hot air.

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