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New Delhi: India reiterated at the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that there should be an “immediate de-escalation” of tensions over Ukraine that takes into account “legitimate security interests of all countries”.
Russia called the meeting to mark the seventh anniversary of the Minsk II agreement, the second pact that aimed to end the violence between Ukraine and two pro-Russian separatist regions. The discussion at Security Council has been a yearly tradition for Russia since 2019.
With Russia holding the presidency for February, the discussion turned into a high-level one, chaired by Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Vershinin. US secretary of state Anthony Blinken attended the Council debate in a surprise appearance, signalling the seriousness of the situation.
At the meeting, Blinken called on the Russians to “to publicly forswear an attack on its neighbour and withdraw its troops immediately”. He also stated that the US believes that Russia will invade Ukraine within days.
Earlier, Vershinin hoped that the West would “abstain from making unsubstantiated allegations that Russia is allegedly going to attack Ukraine”. He asserted that Russia had already “explained everything there was to explain” at the last UNSC meeting on Ukraine on January 31.
“The alleged invasion date that you announced has already passed, so perhaps you’d better stop putting yourselves in an awkward situation,” said the Russian minister.
India’s statement at the meeting was nearly identical to the one made at the last Council meeting on Ukraine the previous month.
Indian permanent representative to the UN, T.S. Tirumurti, asserted that India’s interest was in “finding a solution that can provide for immediate de-escalation of tensions taking into account the legitimate security interests of all countries and aimed towards securing long-term peace and stability in the region and beyond”.
Stating that New Delhi had been in touch with “all concerned parties”, he said that it was India’s considered view that the issue could be resolved only through diplomatic dialogue.
“Any steps that increase tension may best be avoided by all sides in the larger interest of securing international peace and security. Quiet and constructive diplomacy is the need of the hour.”
Tirumurti noted that India believed that the Minsk Agreements provided a basis for a negotiated and peaceful resolution of the situation in eastern Ukraine. “Accordingly, we urge all parties to continue to engage through all possible diplomatic channels and keep working towards the full implementation of the “Minsk Agreements”.”
There is divergence between Russia and Ukraine on the steps to be taken first, which has stopped the implementation of the agreement.
He specifically mentioned India’s support for the trilateral contact group and the Normandy format meetings. “In this context, we welcome the recent meetings of Political Advisers of Normandy Format countries in Paris and Berlin.”
The senior Indian diplomat also repeated India’s support for the recommitment at the recent Normandy format meeting towards unconditional observance of the July 2020 ceasefire and reaffirmation of the Minsk agreements.
Explaining India’s interest, Tirumurti stated that more than 20,000 Indian students and nationals were living in Ukraine, including in the border areas. “The well-being of Indian nationals is of priority to us.” India had recently advised its nationals with non-essential work to leave Ukraine, but there are no plans for an evacuation mission in the near future.
In line with the earlier statement, India did not make any critical remarks about Russia or its alleged military build-up at the border with Ukraine for a possible invasion.
At last week’s Quad ministerial meeting in Australia, Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar had refused to get drawn into commenting on the Ukraine situation during several media appearances.
The US state department spokesperson, Ned Price, stated that there had been discussions on Ukraine between the Indian and American leadership at the Quad meet. He also seemed to imply that the Quad had a role as the principle of strengthening rules-based order was beyond geographical boundaries.
“One of the core tenets of the Quad is to reinforce the rules-based international order, and that is a rules-based order that applies equally in the Indo-Pacific as it does in Europe, as it does anywhere else,” Price said on Wednesday, adding, “We know that our Indian partners are committed to that rules-based international order.”