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Exceptional Diplomacy By India In These Troubled Times: Natwar Singh

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We have not abandoned our independent foreign policy

India’s diplomacy, in these worrisome times has been conducted with exceptional courage, skill and wisdom. We have not abandoned our independent foreign policy. Our abstentions in the Security Council and the UN General Assembly displayed fineness and firmness.

Ukraine. Mr Vladimir Putin attacked Ukraine over 50 days ago. He, it seems, convinced himself that Ukraine would crumble in less than a week. Was it complacency or the inefficiency of the Russian intelligence agencies that misled him? He underestimated the military capabilities of the Ukrainians, their nationalism, patriotism and indomitability.

This Russian underestimation also included President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, actor turned head of state. His bravery is astonishing.

The other day one of President Putin’s closest advisers warned NATO that if Sweden and Finland joined the US-led military alliance, then Russia would deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in an enclave in the heart of Europe. Is this braggadocio or should it be taken seriously? Former Prime Minister and President Dmitry Medvedev made a similar pronouncement.

Finland gained independence from Russia in 1917. It fought two wars against Russia during World War II and lost both. Since then it has been a neutral nation. Sweden has not fought a war in 200 years. Its foreign policy has concentrated on supporting democracy and nuclear disarmament.

The second and most effective Secretary General of the UN, Dag Hammarskjold was a Swede. He would have immediately flown to Moscow and Kyiv and arranged a meeting between Mr Putin and Mr Zelenskyy. Hammarskjold had gravitas. The present Secretary General lacks this quality.

The situation in Ukraine is dire. In parts of southern and eastern Ukraine hardly a building has not been severely damaged. Ten million Ukrainian have been displaced. Four million refugees fled to Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. All of them women and children.

India’s relations with the Soviet Union and Russia have been very close and cordial. Since 1956 Russia/Soviet Union has never let India down.

Even during this war Russia has begun to deliver S-400 Triumf air defence systems to us regardless of Washington’s efforts to “wean away” India from Russia.

It is no secret that India placed orders for five S-400 missile systems from Russia for Rs 39,000 cr four years ago. These missiles can destroy fighter jets and missiles at a range of 400 kilometres.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent his good wishes and greetings to the recently elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Shehbaz Sharif. His past does him little credit.

In his reply to Prime Minister Modi, Mr S. Sharif brought in Kashmir. Someone in his office should have pointed out to him that there was no need to mention Kashmir on this occasion.

What the Pakistan Prime Minister should do is to put right the economy, inflation, unemployment and not bark up the Kashmir tree in vain. However, he has a problem inherited from his predecessors i.e., Kashmir must be item number one on Pakistan’s foreign policy agenda.

Before Imran Khan ceased to be Prime Minister, he made very favourable references to India. This did not go down well in Pakistan. It was most welcomed in India.

Unfortunately, the other day, his loud-mouthed Foreign Minister used foul and abusive language about India. He obviously did not learn good manners at Cambridge.

In the past three weeks, Imran Khan Saheb’s image has taken a beating internationally (including the Islamic World). He is still popular in certain parts of Pakistan. But that popularity will be a casualty to the law of diminishing returns. Even more damaging is the Army abandoning him. He knows only too well that the present Pakistan government will hound him on all fronts.

Sri Lanka. The Rajapaksas are in serious trouble. They may survive the present (very serious) crisis, but the family name has taken a severe beating.

Almost every Indian has friendly and warm feelings for the people of Sri Lanka and for the country. I know Sri Lanka well. As I am now, almost 93, most of my many Sri Lankan friends have passed away. But their memory endures.

All of us pray that peace and normalcy will soon return to Sri Lanka.

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