Problems cannot be solved on battlefield: PM Modi on Ukraine, West Asia crises | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Problems cannot be solved on battlefield: PM Modi on Ukraine, West Asia crises

Jul 10, 2024 06:42 PM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeated the message he conveyed to Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Austria on Wednesday

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday reiterated India’s position that a solution to the Ukraine crisis cannot be found on the battlefield during his visit to Austria, which offered him an opportunity to convey New Delhi’s assessment of the conflict.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in Vienna on Wednesday. (PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in Vienna on Wednesday. (PTI)

The Ukraine war figured prominently in talks between Modi, the first Indian premier to travel to Vienna in 41 years, and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer. The two sides also discussed ways to bolster cooperation in areas such as trade investment, science and technology, green energy and climate change.

Modi repeated the message he conveyed to Russian President Vladimir Putin in televised remarks at the Kremlin on Tuesday – peace talks under the shadow of guns can’t succeed and parties to the conflict need to return to dialogue. Nehammer said his discussions with Modi were an opportunity to find out about India’s assessment of the situation and to “familiarise India with European concerns”.

“Chancellor Nehammer and I have discussed in detail the ongoing conflicts around the world, whether it is the conflict in Ukraine or the situation in West Asia. I have said before that this is not a time for war. Problems cannot be solved on the battlefield,” Modi said after the talks, speaking in Hindi.

“The loss of innocent lives, anywhere, is unacceptable. India and Austria emphasise on dialogue and diplomacy for the earliest possible restoration of peace and stability. We are both ready to provide every possible cooperation to achieve this,” he said.

India and Austria, Nehammer said, are united by concerns over the geopolitical situation and the two leaders had “very intensive talks about the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine”. Pointing to Modi’s just concluded visit to Russia, Nehammer said: “It was particularly important for me to hear about the prime minister’s personal assessment regarding the intentions of Russia in respect of the peace process.”

Nehammer said it was an “important signal” that India participated in the recent peace summit on Ukraine hosted by Switzerland and the two sides had discussed “possibilities of reviving the peace process”. He pointed to India’s “unique position” in the Global South and its role as the largest democracy and said the country will be “more than important” for the peace process and future peace summits.

Austria, as a neutral country and a non-NATO member, will be available as a site for dialogue and is willing to “act as a bridge builder”, Nehammer said.

On the bilateral front, the discussions between the Indian and Austrian leaders focused on cooperation in trade, investment, science and technology, green energy, artificial intelligence, climate change, cultural cooperation and people-to-people ties.

Modi said he and Nehammer identified new opportunities to strengthen cooperation and decided to give strategic direction to bilateral ties. A blueprint for cooperation over the coming decades won’t be limited to economic cooperation, and the two sides will combine strengths in areas such as infrastructure development, innovation, renewable energy, water and waste management and quantum technology, he said.

A mobility and migration agreement signed by the two sides in 2023 will facilitate legal migration and movement of skilled workforce, he added.

With two-way trade currently worth 2.7 billion euro, Nehammer emphasised the scope for expanding economic cooperation,. He said more than 150 Austrian businesses currently operate in India and the number is expected to increase, he said.

Nehammer also highlighted the role of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in negotiations that led to a treaty between the Soviet Union, the UK, the US and France in May 1955 to grant Austria independence and to facilitate withdrawal of occupation forces. The Austrian State Treaty was signed by the four parties with the understanding that the independent state of Austria would remain neutral, acting as a buffer zone between the East and the West.

“There was a standstill in 1953...It was difficult to make progress with the Soviet Union, and it was [Austrian] foreign minister [Karl] Gruber who contacted Prime Minister Nehru, asking for support in the negotiations to bring them to a positive conclusion. This is what happened – India helped Austria and in 1955, the negotiations came to a positive conclusion with the Austrian State Treaty,” he said.

Modi invited Austria to join India’s initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance, Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and Biofuel Alliance. “We both strongly condemn terrorism. We agree that it is unacceptable in any form and cannot be justified in any way,” he said.

Following their talks, Nehammer and Modi jointly addressed CEOs of the two sides at a business roundtable in Hofburg Palace. Modi highlighted the potential for collaboration between Indian and Austrian companies in sectors such as infrastructure, renewable energy, new and emerging technologies, fintech, start-ups and innovation. He also invited Austrian companies to invest in India.

On his arrival in Vienna on Tuesday, Modi was received by foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg at the airport. He was also hosted by Nehammer for a private meeting. Before concluding his visit on Wednesday, Modi met President Alexander Van der Bellen and leading Austrian personalities.

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