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India Stands Its Ground On Foreign Policy

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UN General Secretary’s tweet vindicates India’s stand vis-à-vis sanctions and humanitarian crisis

New Delhi: Amid the mounting West Bloc’s pressure on India to be on their side to back sanctions against Russia for its military operations in Ukraine, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar during high-profile meetings with top world leaders came out with a bold and candid counter, “talk of sanctions looks like a campaign in view of the fact that it was Europe that was buying more oil from Moscow than before the war.” Equally strong was his message for the Biden administration when Jaishankar said in Washington, “India also takes a view on other people’s human rights situation including that of the United States.”

These remarks from the Indian foreign minister actually amounted to highlighting “dichotomy and hypocrisy” in the West amid the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Jaishankar’s choice of words “campaign” and “human rights” said it all. While India’s focus is on how to end violence in Ukraine and mitigate human sufferings, the West is mounting a campaign that could only worsen the situation.

Countering every move by the US and its allies to build pressure on it, India crafted its diplomatic path in this direction to turn the tables on the West since the beginning of the turmoil in Ukraine. India’s diplomatic heft yielded results as well, with clear signs of the West coming under pressure. A tweet message from the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, vindicates India’s views about what the duty of the “sanctions obsessed’ West should be at this point of time of humanitarian crisis. The UN head said, “People caught up in crisis around the world cannot pay the price of the war in Ukraine. All countries must keep markets open, resist unjustified and unnecessary export restrictions and make reserves available to countries at risk of hunger.” What is significant is that this message came from the UN chief just two days ahead of his meeting with Jaishankar. “As Antonio is set to meet a series of the world leaders in days to come, Jaishankar’s briefing to him on various issues is important. The UN head has assured the EAM of conveying his message to the western countries,” highly-placed sources told The Sunday Guardian.

In what is seen as another significant sign of India’s diplomatic victory is that the Biden administration, which was till recently giving sanctions threats to India if it aligns with Russia, is now speaking profusely of uplifting India-US partnership to a higher level, not allowing the differing positions on international developments (read Russia-Ukraine war) to become an impediment. After a clear message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a virtual summit with the US President Joe Biden and a lot of persuasion of Antony Blinken by Jaishankar during bilateral and 2+2 talks, the US got around to the fact that the real challenge to the security of Washington and New Delhi is from the Indo-Pacific region due to China’s belligerence, and focus should not be allowed to be shifted from this point. Pakistan sponsored terrorism is also an important issue towards which the US shifted its focus due to Jaishankar’s persuasion. This issue found place in the joint statement of the Ministerial dialogue.

Talking with PM Modi, Biden lauded India’s contributions in terms of humanitarian aid and assistance in Ukraine in what was a recognition for New Delhi’s diplomatic line that its concern is about human lives in the conflict zone. “India’s position on humanitarian issues has been so strong since the beginning that Blinken had to blink after making some meek references to human rights abuse issues,” said an official. “He was on the backfoot after being reminded of the incidents where Indians have been treated unfairly in the US,” sources said. The EAM in a press conference hinted at it as well, saying that “India consistently raises such matters concerning the Indian community.” Moreover, India’s condemnation of the Bucha genocide in Ukraine has already silenced the Western countries who were asking New Delhi to condemn and criticize Russia. This made India’s position stronger on humanitarian issues, say officials.

As a result, most of the time Blinken spoke about how to strengthen the strategic partnership and defence collaborations between India and the US, sidestepping the Ukraine war. He had got enough message that India is not going to follow the Western strategy on Ukraine and Russia like a shadow. Nor is India openly saying anything against any other country vis-à-vis their stand on Russia.

In what signalled the Biden administration’s conciliatory tone, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said that 2+2 dialogue was about making US-India ties much stronger as President Biden values the strong alliances and partnerships with New Delhi. Austin at no point of time referred to what could be interpreted as a message to India on its Russia stand. In what was a veiled reference to the West’s demand for India to reduce dependency on Russia in terms of weapons and arms, Rajnath Singh urged the Biden administration to support the Modi government’s Make in India mission so as to achieve such goals of reducing dependency on the entire international community. Austin rushed to explain that “We are working closely with India on a range of priorities to support New Delhi’s security.”

Sources said that the US reconciled to India’s position all the more after PM Modi’s virtual talks with President Biden in the second round. He reiterated that India upholds the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty in what was also a message for Russia among other countries. He also said that India condemned Bucha killings and sought an independent probe. He also established contacts with Ukrainian and Russian Presidents urging both of them to hold direct talks to end violence. This suggested that India is making efforts to end war unlike the West which is involved in criticism and sanctions. India supplying humanitarian assistance to Ukraine was another point that strengthened New Delhi’s position globally.

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