In phone call with Putin, Modi appeals for ‘immediate cessation of violence’
Modi spoke to Putin after chairing a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which largely focused on measures to ensure the safety of Indian citizens in Ukraine and their evacuation via neighbouring countries such as Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia
Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for an immediate end to violence in Ukraine during a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday and urged all parties to return to the path of diplomatic negotiations.
Modi was the first world leader to speak to Putin after the Russian president ordered a military operation in support of the Moscow-backed regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine, triggering fears of a wider conflict in Europe. The Indian government’s main priority has been the safety and evacuation of some 16,000 nationals, mostly students, from Ukraine.
Also Read: How Western sanctions will target Russia?
“Prime Minister appealed for an immediate cessation of violence, and called for concerted efforts from all sides to return to the path of diplomatic negotiations and dialogue,” said an official statement issued after the phone conversation.
Modi also “sensitised the Russian President about India’s concerns regarding the safety of the Indian citizens in Ukraine, especially students, and conveyed that India attaches the highest priority to their safe exit and return to India”, the statement added.
Putin briefed Modi on recent developments regarding Ukraine, and the prime minister “reiterated his long-standing conviction that the differences between Russia and the NATO group can only be resolved through honest and sincere dialogue”, the statement said.
Both leaders agreed that their officials and diplomatic teams will maintain “regular contacts on issues of topical interest”.
Modi spoke to Putin after chairing a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which largely focused on measures to ensure the safety of Indian citizens in Ukraine and their evacuation via neighbouring countries such as Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. External affairs minister S Jaishankar was set to speak to his counterparts from these four countries to discuss the situation and evacuation efforts.
Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla told a media briefing that India stands ready to facilitate any engagement or dialogue between the parties to the crisis in Ukraine as it has good relations with all the key players.
“It is true that India has maintained the best of relations with all the countries concerned, whether it is the US or Russia or the European Union (EU). We have been in touch with all parties...both as a member of the [UN] Security Council, as a country with a lot at stake in that region, as a country with so many of its citizens in a vulnerable zone,” he said in response to a question whether India could have a role in bringing together the US and Russia.
Shringla said India’s focus at the UN Security Council has been on de-escalation of tensions and diplomatic dialogue, which are the only way forward. India had also urged all the players to use existing mechanisms such as the Minsk Agreements and the Normandy Format to defuse the situation, he said.
“We have maintained that people need to talk to each other, parties need to be engaged. And if there’s anything that we can do to facilitate that engagement, we are more than happy to do [that]”, he said.
Shringla said India will also carefully study the impact of new sanctions imposed on Russia by the US, the UK, EU, Japan and Australia. Some unilateral sanctions were already in place on Russia and more have been unveiled. Shringla said the situation is evolving rapidly and India will have to see what impact the punitive actions will have on the country’s interests.
India needs to study the matter carefully “because any sanctions will have an impact on our existing relationship”, he said.
There has been speculation that the fresh sanctions could impact India’s long-standing defence cooperation with Russia and affect efforts to obtain a US waiver on potential secondary sanctions on India’s multi-billion dollar deal to acquire the S-400 air defence system.
Shringla acknowledged that the global situation had changed because of the developments in Ukraine. “The situation has become quite serious. All options are open and we have relations with all the parties. We will do what needs to be done protect the national interests and the interests of our people,” he said.
India has so far refrained from criticised Russia’s actions in view of the close strategic ties between the two countries and because of fears that such a move could drive Moscow closer to China and its all-weather ally, Pakistan.