PM Narendra Modi’s Remarks To Vladimir Putin On Ukraine War Creates Buzz Round The World

With his comments to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Ukraine War, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signalled India is neither in the Western nor in Russian camp and it has its independent position.

PM Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday on the sidelines of SCO Summit

The Western media is making much of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on Ukraine during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Uzbekistan on Friday. 

Modi told Putin that this is not “an era of war”. The US press took the comment as Modi chastising Putin.  

Does this mean that New Delhi is veering round to the US camp on Ukraine?  It’s not so, but there is a nuanced shift in its tone to publicly assert to the world that India has its independent position on the Ukraine War. The United States and Europe will be happy with Modi’s comments to Ukraine. However, it does not mean that India’s relations with Russia are about to change. Modi, like China’s President Xi Jinping and other countries across the world, wants the fighting in Ukraine to stop and the disruption caused by the war on supply chains to end.

“Modi rebukes Putin over war in Ukraine,” The Washington Post reported in a headline. It further reported, “In a stunning public rebuke, Modi told Putin: ‘Today’s era is not an era of war, and I have spoken to you on the phone about this.’” Most of the reports are in a similar vein.

Modi told Putin, “Today’s era is not of war and we have spoken to you many times on the phone that democracy, diplomacy, and dialogue are such things that touch the world. Today we will get a chance to discuss how we can move forward on the path of peace in the coming days. I will also get an opportunity to understand your view point.”

Former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal told Outlook, “It is a general statement that applies to all sides, including China, keeping in mind its aggression in Ladakh. Putin himself in his remarks noted that Modi has been ‘constantly’ expressing his concern and while saying he too wanted the conflict to end, he blamed Ukraine for seeking a solution on the battlefield. Besides, PM Modi wanted Putin to ‘also’ contribute to a solution, implying others, including the West, had to also do so.’’

Government sources in New Delhi do not regard Modi’s words as any sort of rebuke. They point to the fact that India has always called for an end to the war and has spoken of settling issues through diplomacy and negotiations since February 24 when Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

Earlier this month during the Eastern Economic Forum meeting in Vladivostok, where Putin was the host, Modi said in his virtual address, “The Ukraine conflict and the global pandemic have had a major impact on global supply chains. Shortages of foodgrains, fertilisers, and fuels are a major concern for developing countries. Since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict, we have stressed the need to take the path of diplomacy and dialogue. We support all peaceful efforts to end this conflict.”  

Putin too acknowledged at the SCO meeting that Modi had said this several times to Russia. He said, “I know your position on the conflict in Ukraine about your concerns that you constantly express. We will do our best to stop this as soon as possible. Only, unfortunately, the opposing side, the leadership of Ukraine, announced its abandonment of the negotiation process.”

Former diplomat Bhaswati Mukherjee also said it’s not a rebuke.

“It is a reminder to President Putin once again, as PM Modi has said during his telephone conversations with the Russian leader, that this is not an era of war. He has conveyed to the Russian President that India’s strong preference is for a solution to end the conflict so that Russia returns to its rightful place in the comity of nations,” said Mukherjee.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also waded into Modi’s comments. When asked by a journalist to comment on India’s position, he said, “What you're hearing from China, from India, is reflective of concerns around the world about the effects of Russia's aggression on Ukraine – not just on the people of Ukraine, devastating as that's been, but on countries and people across the entire planet.”  

Modi also spoke of the depth of India-Russia relationship in his remarks.

He said, “The relationship between India and Russia has deepened manifold. We also value this relationship because we have been such friends who have been with each other every moment for the last several decades and the whole world also knows how Russia's relationship with India has been and how India’s relationship with Russia has been and therefore the world also knows that it is an unbreakable friendship.”

That is not about to change soon.