India is the only country that can stop the Russia-Ukraine war, which has taken a devastating humanitarian toll on Eastern Europe. Thousands are dead, while close to 10 lakh refugees have fled Ukraine. It is expected that one million Ukrainian refugees will further flee their country in the coming days. Ukraine has been destroyed. It is fighting a war it simply cannot win. It is engaging in extensive propaganda and disinformation campaigns, but when faced by an enemy of the size and scale of Russia, just how long can it prolong the imminent?
It is in this context that Ukraine’s repeated appeals to India for intervention become important. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Saturday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reach out to Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the ongoing invasion of his country.
Kuleba pointed out the “special relations” between India and Russia and said, “All countries who enjoy special relations with India can appeal to President Putin. We call PM Modi to continue reaching out to President Putin and explaining to him that this war is against the interest of all.”
The Ukrainian Foreign Minister also said, “Ordinary Indians can put pressure on the Russian embassy in India to demand from them, again to stop the war. Ukraine does not need this war.”
Russia Won’t Listen to Any Other Country
12 days into the war in Ukraine, it is now abundantly clear that Russia is paying no heed to the rants of Western nations, and the appeals of its own friends. China, Israel, Turkey – they have all called for a peaceful mechanism to resolve disputes. Russia, though, has continued its bombardment of Ukraine.
There is one country Russia is going out of its way to keep in confidence, though. That country is India. Russian forces have been directed by President Vladimir Putin to ensure that no Indian citizens are hurt in its ongoing operations and that they are brought to safety as soon as possible. Largescale cooperation between New Delhi and Moscow even led to Putin agreeing to a ceasefire for seven hours in the city of Kharkiv recently, allowing Indians to return to safety.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first leader called after launching the operation in Ukraine. The two leaders have held two separate calls after the invasion began. It is clear by now that if there is one leader Putin is willing to listen to, it is Narendra Modi.
Can India Intervene?
Most certainly, India can intervene. You see, there was a reason why Putin dialled PM Modi first to explain Russia’s position. He understands that there might arise a need in the future for a ceasefire, or third-party mediated talks between Russia and Ukraine. Putin would want that third party to be India.
The West recognises India’s position as a powerful democracy as well. India not joining the Western ranks to lambast Russia is a major downer for Washington and its NATO allies. The “democratic world” has not come together to shun Russia, because India itself is the largest democracy around.
India has abstained repeatedly at the United Nations from voting against Russia. This was followed by the West threatening India with sanctions. Did India change its position? No, in fact, it went on abstaining even further.
Russia, on its part, is unmoved by Western sanctions. Its invasion of Ukraine is progressing as planned, and Moscow seems in no mood to back down right now.
The West thought it could impose severe and immediate costs on the Russian economy, which would greatly hinder the Russian military’s capability of achieving its objectives in Ukraine. That has not happened. Simultaneously, mediation efforts by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet, French President Emmanuel Macron, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and China’s Xi Jinping are bearing no fruits.
Yet, India is a country that Russia cares about. Vladimir Putin ordered a pause of its operations in Ukrainian cities at the request of the Modi government. The West has been seeing how India is utilising its influence over Moscow to its own benefit. Now, the West wants India to bring a stop to the war.
India holds many cards to its chest. It can wield its influence over Moscow at any time. Whether it does so to serve the interests of the West will be seen in the coming days and weeks.