External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who will attend the Munich Security Conference (MSC) amid the Ukraine crisis this weekend, will unequivocally reiterate India’s “principled” stand that emphasis should be on diplomatic solutions between the NATO and Russia. “The EAM is not going to say anything during the MSC or bilateral talks in Germany and France that could be interpreted by the European countries and the US as India’s criticism of Russia,” sources told The Daily Guardian.
“Jaishankar is travelling to Munich and Paris knowing full well that his counterparts in European countries would expect Delhi to give a tough message to Russia, similar to those given by NATO allies,” say senior diplomats.
EAM Jaishankar is likely to meet his counterparts, including the European Union’s Josep Borrell and Germany’s Annalena Baerbock on the sidelines of the annual MSC. “There would be a marathon discussion on the conflict in Ukraine, and India would be expected to endorse the hard line taken so far by the western powers,” says a diplomat. “That India abstained from a vote on the discussion on the Ukraine situation in the UN Security Council did not go down well with many of the EU members,” he adds.
Jaishankar will also hold talks with his counterpart and other diplomats in France during which Russia’s approach towards Ukraine will come up for discussion. According to sources, Jaishankar had made India’s stand on the Ukraine crisis clear even during his conversations with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken ahead of the Quad foreign ministers’ meeting in Melbourne, Australia last week. Sources told The Daily Guardian that recently British diplomats held talks with high-level officials in the South Block in what was seen as a key development in the perspective of the upcoming MSC and the Ukraine conflict. “Several meetings took place over the past few days, where the European officials made their points on the Ukraine situation, but India re-emphasised on its stand on the same,” sources said.
Meanwhile, Russia has decided not to attend the conference at Munich this year due mainly to the ongoing tensions over Ukraine. Sources said that India is not ready to upset its long-standing relations with Russia by making any strong statement against it amid the Ukraine development. Despite Russia’s growing strategic ties with China, India continues to consider Moscow a time-tested and reliable partner with which Delhi has sound strategic relations, say diplomats.
Meanwhile, amid the ongoing border tension between Russia and Ukraine, sources said discussions are underway with civil aviation authorities and various airlines on how to increase the number of flights between India and Ukraine. Control rooms in the embassy as well as in the Ministry of External Affairs are being set up to respond to queries of Indian nationals in Ukraine and their families in India, according to the sources. Earlier, the Indian embassy in Ukraine asked its citizens, particularly students whose stay is not essential, to leave Kiev temporarily. “We are aware that many Indian students are presently in Ukraine, and their families are anxious about their wards, particularly about getting flights to India,” a source said.
The Indian embassy in Kiev on Wednesday advised its citizens not to panic amid the ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia. Answering some frequently asked questions (FAQs) from Indian citizens, the embassy said, “It is important to maintain calm and not give rise to panic. Those desirous of travelling back to India are advised to book available commercial flight tickets. Ministry of External Affairs is also in discussions with Ministry of Civil Aviation and various airlines for expanding flights between India and Ukraine.” The embassy further emphasised that tickets should be purchased from verified and reliable sources only. “You are also advised to keep monitoring Embassy Twitter and Facebook page and website for updates on the matter. Do not forward unverified news, and beware of potential scams.” On whether visa and consular services are functional, the embassy said the embassy continued to function normally to provide all services to Indian nationals in Ukraine. On the issues concerning the Indian students studying in Ukraine, the embassy said that they were engaging with the concerned Ukrainian authorities for appropriate regularisation of the education process.
In an advisory issued on Tuesday, India also requested its nationals to keep the Embassy informed about the status of their presence to enable the Embassy to reach them where required. Tensions over Ukraine have increased in recent months, with Russia and NATO accusing each other of amassing troops on the Russian-Ukrainian border. The United States and Ukraine accuse Russia of planning to invade. But Moscow continues to deny such claims and maintains that it has no intention of attacking any country. A White House spokesperson had earlier said that the US would welcome any country’s attempt to play a role in de-escalation of mounting tensions between Russia and Ukraine, including India.
Russia announced the end of its Crimea military drills, with troops leaving units of the southern military district, having completed their participation in tactical exercises, and are moving to their permanent deployment points, Moscow’s defence ministry said in a statement. However, the United States, and other NATO allies said that Russia was not pulling back its troops from around Ukraine on Wednesday even though Moscow was insisting the contrary.
WITH AGENCY INPUTS