Russian President Valdimir Putin received a nuanced reply from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh which laid emphasis on territorial integrity and urged a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crises.
During a 25 minute telephonic conversation as part of Mr. Putin’s outreach to world leaders beginning with his friends, Dr. Singh stressed very clearly that India stood for territorial integrity and respect for sovereignty.
While this went against the Russian position on Crimea, officials noted that the Prime Minister also urged "all sides" to take to dialogue to resolve the question of ethnic split on Ukraine.
"It is a complex situation and we recognise that. There certainly is a historical specificity to it. The Prime Minister’s emphasis on territorial integrity means that his reply was not a clear message of support for today’s developments. But the request to resolve the issue diplomatically reflects the PM’s emphasis on close bilateral ties," noted Government sources.
"Basically, India was reiterating its message of March 6 that called for a diplomatic solution otherwise the situation could go out of hand because a lot of people are doing a lot of saber rattling," they added.
Strategic analyst and former diplomat G. Parthasarthy felt the Prime Minister’s observation on unity and territorial integrity underlined the fact that India continued to hold these principles dear. But, of equal significance was another observation - "that all sides would exercise restraint and work together constructively to find political and diplomatic solutions that protected the legitimate interests of all countries in the region and ensured long term peace and stability in Europe and beyond." This indicates that the onus is on other involved parties to the dispute to give up attempts at encircling Russia such as through the eastward march of the NATO, he added.
India had first spelt out its stand on the Ukrainian crises on March 6. It had avoided outright condemnation of Russia’s intervention in Crimea, expressed concern about the well being of Indian nationals in Ukraine and called for "sincere and sustained diplomatic efforts" and "constructive dialogue".
A few days later, Mr. Putin thanked China and India for being sympathetic to Russia’s role and appreciated India’s "restraint and objectivity."
This aspect of India’s position - recognition of complexities and advocation of dialogue - was also indicated by National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon who said, “There are legitimate Russian and other interests involved and we hope they are discussed and resolved."