Hours after he thanked India for taking a “restrained and objective” stand on the Ukraine situation, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and expressed his gratitude Tuesday.
During the 20-minute telephone conversation, Singh thanked Putin for explaining the Russian position with regard to recent developments in Ukraine.
“He emphasised the consistent position India had on the issues of unity and territorial integrity of countries. Prime Minister expressed his hope that all sides would exercise restraint and work together constructively to find political and diplomatic solutions that protected the legitimate interests of all countries in the region and ensured long term peace and stability in Europe and beyond,” a Ministry of External Affairs statement said.
Behind Putin’s gratitude, it emerges, was National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon’s candid assessment that Russia’s interests were “legitimate” – as articulated during a March 6 briefing.
As the Russian President addressed a joint meeting of the Russian Parliament Tuesday on the occasion of Crimea’s “reunification” with Russia, he named China and India as the countries that showed understanding for Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis.
“We are grateful to all those who understood our actions in Crimea,” Putin said. “We are grateful to the people of China, whose leadership sees the situation in Crimea in all its historical and political integrity. We highly appreciate India’s restraint and objectivity.”
South Block, which tracked Putin’s speech, pointed out to the NSA’s comments on the Ukraine situation about 12 days ago – perceived quite favourably by Moscow.
Responding to a question on March 6, Menon had said: “As far as we are concerned, we are watching what is happening in Ukraine with some concern. We would hope that whatever internal issues there are within Ukraine are settled peacefully and that the broader issues of reconciling the various interests involved, and there are after all legitimate Russian and other interests involved, are discussed, negotiated, and that there is a satisfactory resolution to them. But more than that, at this stage when everything is still fluid, I do not think we can tell you.”
In its statement on the same day, the MEA had linked the situation in Ukraine to the presence of 5,000 Indians in the country without qualifying Russia’s interests.