Hope India will have a ‘clear message’ for Russia: German envoy
Failure to push back against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can have “very negative consequences” across the world and even encourage other big countries to resort to similar actions against smaller neighbours, a top German diplomat said on Wednesday.
Jens Plötner, foreign and security policy advisor to the German chancellor, said he hoped the Indian side will deliver a “clear message” about the conflict in Ukraine to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov during his visit to New Delhi this week.
While Germany would welcome having India “in our camp” on the Ukraine crisis, there is understanding in Berlin about the challenges and constraints New Delhi is grappling with because of a complicated neighbourhood, he said at a media briefing.
Plötner, who effectively functions as a national security adviser and was closely involved in the four-country Normandy Format talks to defuse tensions between Russia and Ukraine, met external affairs minister S Jaishankar, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and foreign secretary Harsh Shringla on Wednesday. The Ukraine crisis was the focus of these interactions.
People familiar with the matter said Plötner and Doval discussed a wide range of issues and global developments. On the issue of Ukraine, Doval emphasised India’s consistent approach for peaceful settlement of disputes in line with international law and the country’s commitment to the UN charter and respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states, the people said.
Ahead of the meetings, Plötner told a small group of journalists it is important to focus on the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine and ways to stop the war.
“We don’t want the big [countries] to be encouraged because something like this goes unchecked, and we don’t want smaller countries to feel that they need to live in fear because any big one can just decide to turn back time on history and geography and decide that [a] country has no right to exist as such,” he said.
Plötner sidestepped a question from Hindustan Times on whether his reference to big countries was a nod towards China, which has boundary disputes with India and other countries. He said: “The fact that I didn’t name any names was deliberate and I would like to stick to that.”
If Russia’s actions against Ukraine go unchecked, “it will have consequences across the globe” and there are many such situations involving a “bigger neighbour of a smaller country”, he pointed out. “If this goes unchecked, it will have, on every continent, very negative consequences,” he added.
Referring to Lavrov’s two-day visit to India beginning Thursday, Plötner said: “I trust that our Indian friends will, at least, behind closed doors also have a clear message [for him].”
Responding to a question on India abstaining on all Ukraine-related votes at UN bodies, he said Germany would have welcomed having India “in our camp”. He acknowledged India is in a “complicated neighbourhood” and has challenges and constraints of its own.
“I am quite confident that although we might have different approaches, we will still come to the common conclusion that this can’t go unchecked, because the consequences, if this goes unchecked, will be really devastating for all of us,” he said.
Plötner said there is no need for Europe to “preach or teach” and his discussions were aimed at better understanding of India’s position and explaining Germany’s views. The Russian invasion was a blatant breach of international norms and totally unprovoked, he added.
On the issue of sanctions, Plötner said it is only fair for Europe to “carry the brunt of the costs”, and it might be asking too much to expect India to act “together with us on sanctions”.
“We would very much like to see a situation where there is no backfilling on the sanctions we operate and where no friendly country in the world takes...economic advantage of the war,” he added.
Plötner responded to criticism of European countries continuing to buy energy from Russia by saying Germany has stopped the Nord Stream 2 gas project and intends to be independent of Russian coal within 2022 and significantly reduce its dependence on Russian oil starting this year. He acknowledged it will take longer to renounce Russian gas and spoke about the possibility of greater cooperation with India in green energy.