With the crisis in Ukraine taking centre-stage in Europe, foreign minister Subramanyam Jaishankar was asked for his views on Russian action in Ukraine & China’s threatening stance on Taiwan several times during his recent visit to France.
The minister clearly enunciated India’s position and correctly swatted down suggestions that Taiwan and Ukraine could be painted by the same broad stroke of the brush. They are clearly not similar issues and the circumstances leading to the crisis in Asia and Europe have to be taken in their separate historical contexts.
Jaishankar was delivering a lecture at the French Institute of International Relations during the last day of his visit to Paris. Aware of India’s traditional close ties with Russia and its problems with China, especially since the Ladakh military confrontation between the Asian giants in 2020, the questionnaire tried to link China’s threatening behaviour towards Taiwan with Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
While pointing out the circumstances of both issues to their historical context, Jaishankar said that the roots of the Ukraine crisis go back to the 1991 break-up of the former Soviet Union and the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation(NATO), the transatlantic military alliance, and the current dynamics between Russia and Europe and Russia and the West.
"Both are products of very complex histories of that particular region. In the case of Ukraine, a lot of it derives from the post-Soviet politics, the expansion of NATO, the dynamics between Russia and Europe, and Russia and the West broadly," Jaishankar said in an answer to a question.
"I think, in the case of Taiwan, it is a product of what happened in Chinese history and what happened the way the Cold war and other developments played out in Asia," he said
Though the minister did not say so, it is quite plain that the triumphalism that was apparent after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the sorry state of affairs in Russia, led to the rise of Vladimir Putin. The former KGB chief was bent on restoring some of Russia’s prestige.
The hatred for Putin and his depiction as an eternal villain( not that he is squeaky clean) in the US and West has much to do with his ability to reassert Russia’s influence in the world. Despite its faltering economy, its loss of its former glory, Putin was able to restore some of Russia’s lost pride and ensured that the international community could not dismiss it as a fading power.
With a few notable exceptions, in both the US and Europe, most NATO leaders wish to brush off the expansion of NATO and encirclement of Russia and wish instead to highlight Russia’s aggressive posture in east Ukraine. By recognised the breakaway, Russian-speaking republics of Donetsk and Luhansk on Monday, Vladimir Putin has further escalated tensions. The US has slapped punitive sanctions on Russia as well as Donetsk and Luhansk.
On another occasion Jaishankar was asked why India did not condemn Russia’s mobilisation of troops on the Ukraine border. "The real question is: are you mobilised to find a good solution or are you content with posturing? India can talk with Russia, with other countries, within the UN security council and support initiatives like those of France."
India’s stand in the UN Security Council has been consistent from day one. The solution is not war but dialogue.