DC Edit | ‘Not era of war’: PM signal to Putin at SCO welcome

The first in-person summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SC) with the waning of the Covid-19 pandemic threat has been a productive one for India in dealing with the key international question that the Ukraine war represents. At the same time, the 22nd summit of the SCO (September 16-17) held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, gives some indication of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s thinking on this country’s dealings with the key neighbours, China and Pakistan, with whom it has severe problems of a trans-diplomatic nature which test the security dimension.

The Indian PM held bilateral meetings with leaders of the host country as well as Russia, Iran and even Turkey, although with the last its ties have suffered greatly of late on account of Ankara’s interventionist-style approach to Kashmir which makes no secret of its leaning toward Pakistan.

The PM’s core message to President Vladimir Putin was that this is not an “era of war” but one of “democracy, diplomacy and dialogue”. This message was delivered and made public, suggesting that Russia was the aggressor in Ukraine and should end its military operation. At the same time, Moscow was urged to persist with diplomacy and dialogue since Russia-Ukraine negotiations and discussions toward ending the fighting have stalled.

Russia-Ukraine talks since February have thrown up complex elements, perhaps the most important of which is what Mr Putin spelt out in his conversation with Mr Modi, namely, that Ukraine has disrupted the conversation and its objective is to gain a resolution on the “battlefield”.

This is greatly different from Kyiv’s original stance and it is surmised that the leading Western powers, which are supplying weapons and intelligence support to Ukraine, would like Moscow to go bust while fighting, or at least to have the Russian leader dispossessed of his position. A May report in the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper had said that, on his April 9 visit to Kyiv, then British PM Boris Johnson had held that Russia “had to be pressured, not negotiated with”.

All the same, Mr Modi’s advice to Mr Putin is to close hostilities and take to diplomacy and dialogue. Presumably, in India’s immediate context, this applies to China and Pakistan, too. Since China is the aggressor in eastern Ladakh and adopts threatening military postures in the eastern sector on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) too, it must first withdraw to its own side of the LAC and restore status quo ante before bilateral ties can normalise.

In the case of Pakistan there is no overt military aggression but there is constant terrorist activity that blights peace-making efforts. So, the advice to the Russian leader to end war is a wide one and applies to China and Pakistan, too. Pointedly, the Prime Minister had no communications with the leaders of these two countries in Samarkand, though whether he would was a matter of speculation. In this space this newspaper’s counsel was to eschew a bilateral conversation with China’s President Xi Jinping and observe only “perfunctory protocol”. We are satisfied this was the case.

As regards the Ukraine issue, President Putin — in remarks that were televised — told Mr Modi that he would “keep India abreast” of developments after the PM gave his advice on diplomacy and dialogue. Was this a suggestion for India to get involved in peace-making? Perhaps New Delhi can seek to find out discreetly and then take a view.

Next Story