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Monday, June 27, 2022

Zelenskyy speaks to Modi after UNSC vote, seeks support

Modi, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, expressed “deep anguish” over the loss of life and property, reiterated his call for “immediate cessation of violence” and return to dialogue, and conveyed “India’s willingness to contribute in any way towards peace efforts.”

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: February 27, 2022 7:20:36 am
PM Modi, ZelenskyPrime Minister Narendra Modi (L), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Hours after India abstained during a vote Saturday on a US-sponsored UN Security Council resolution that deplored “in the strongest terms” Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has been leading the defence of Kyiv, spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sought India’s “political support” at the UNSC.

Modi, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, expressed “deep anguish” over the loss of life and property, reiterated his call for “immediate cessation of violence” and return to dialogue, and conveyed “India’s willingness to contribute in any way towards peace efforts.”

In a Twitter post, Zelenskyy said: “Spoke with Prime Minister @narendramodi. Informed of the course of Ukraine repulsing Russian aggression. More than 100,000 invaders are on our land. They insidiously fire on residential buildings. Urged India to give us political support in UN Security Council. Stop the aggressor together!”

The PMO said Zelenskyy “briefed” Modi in detail on the situation in Ukraine.

Two days ago, Modi had appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for “immediate cessation of violence” but this is the first time that he has expressed his willingness to participate in a peace process.

Modi also conveyed “India’s deep concern for the safety and security of Indian citizens, including students, present in Ukraine.”

“He sought facilitation by Ukrainian authorities to expeditiously and safely evacuate Indian citizens,” the PMO said.

The Zelenskyy-Modi conversation took place after India abstained during the vote on a resolution slamming Russia, but sent Moscow a clear signal by flagging three big concerns in the wake of its military actions in Ukraine — “respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states”, “UN Charter” and “international law”.

While Russia vetoed the resolution – it chaired the UNSC meeting since it holds the presidency for February — China too abstained along with the UAE.

The remaining 11 members of the UNSC, including US, UK, France, voted in favour of the resolution, which did not pass because of the Russia veto.

UNSC resolution on Russian invasion of Ukraine |How countries voted

Although India did not name Russia, its statement was stronger than its earlier statements at the UNSC on the issue of Russian actions against Ukraine in the last one month or so.

The abstention and the statement of explanation made by T S Tirumurti, Permanent Representative of India to the UN in New York, came after sustained diplomatic pressure from the US-led bloc as well as Russia.

So, India’s decision to abstain and its statement were a manifestation of its diplomatic tightrope walk, given strategic partners on both sides.

The Russian embassy in New Delhi, in a Twitter post, said: “Highly appreciate India’s independent and balanced position at the voting in the UNSC on February 25, 2022. In the spirit of the special and privileged strategic partnership Russia is committed to maintain close dialogue with India on the situation around Ukraine.”

A top Indian diplomat told The Sunday Express: “The resolution was dead-on-arrival… so votes and statements were made to display our positions, principles and interests. India took a call to abstain in view of its interests, while the statement underlined its principles.”

While its abstention will be viewed as taking sides with Russia, its statement on “respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states”, “UN Charter” and “international law” will be perceived as being in sync with Western partners.

India stopped short of condemning Russia’s actions, much to the dismay of the Western bloc.

In its explanation, India made five key points:

First, it said it is “deeply disturbed” but did not name Russia at all. Tirumurti said, “India is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine.” Earlier, India had expressed “regret” and “deep concern”.

Second, it reiterated its appeal for “cessation of violence and hostilities”. “We urge that all efforts are made for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities,” Trimurti said. This was conveyed to Putin by Modi too during their phone call, but at that time he had only mentioned “cessation of violence” — so adding “hostilities” amounts to sharpening the language.

“No solution can ever be arrived at the cost of human lives,” Trimurti said –Ukraine has spoken of a high number of casualties including civilians.

Third, India flagged its core concern about its nationals. There are some 16,000 Indian nationals still there, mostly students.

“We are also deeply concerned about the welfare and security of the Indian community, including a large number of Indian students, in Ukraine,” Trimurti said.

Fourth, India brought up the issue of “territorial integrity and sovereignty”.

“The contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. All member states need to honour these principles in finding a constructive way forward,” Tirumurti said.

And, fifth, it advocated diplomacy.

“Dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment,” he said.

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“It is a matter of regret that the path of diplomacy was given up. We must return to it. For all these reasons, India has chosen to abstain on this Resolution,” he said.

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