‘India will always support Russia’

Putin cold-shouldered by the West

Updated - November 17, 2021 01:00 am IST

Published - May 09, 2015 03:24 am IST - MOSCOW

President Pranab Mukherjee being conferred with Honorary Doctorate from Russian Diplomatic Academy at a function at the academy in Moscow, Russia on Friday.

President Pranab Mukherjee being conferred with Honorary Doctorate from Russian Diplomatic Academy at a function at the academy in Moscow, Russia on Friday.

India “will always reciprocate” Russia’s support in its “difficult moments,” President Pranab Mukherjee told an audience of diplomats, officials and scholars here on Friday.

“India-Russia relations…will not be affected by the winds of transient global political trends. Russia has been a pillar of strength at difficult moments in India’s history... India will always reciprocate this support,” Mr. Mukherjee said, shortly after he received an honorary doctorate at the prestigious Diplomatic Academy in Russia.

Boycott by U.S., EU The President’s words hold special meaning given that Russia is facing a period of “difficulty” at present, and Mr. Mukherjee is here to attend the Victory Day parade that has been boycotted by all but a few countries. The U.S. and the European Union have led the boycott protesting President Putin’s actions in Ukraine, and the annexation of Crimea last year, for which they have also imposed sanctions on Russia.

As a result, only about 25 of the more than 60 countries expressly invited, accepted to send a government delegation to the V-Day parade, and Mr. Mukherjee is one of just 16 Presidents expected to attend. Among those attending are Chinese President Xi Jinping, Cuban President Raul Castro, BRICS partners Dilma Rousseff and Jacob Zuma and a clutch of neighbouring countries.

Absentees Most notably, several former Soviet States have refused to attend, leading Russian opposition leaders to criticise President Putin for “antagonising everyone,” while the English daily Moscow Times said President Putin had been “humiliated” by the non-attendance of countries, whose leaders had come to the commemoration in past decades. As a result, India’s participation in the event is being particularly noted.

Speaking to The Hindu , Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Murgalov denied that Russia had been “isolated” but said “it is really important for us that India’s President came here, and it shows India’s friendship to us.”

The gesture hasn’t been lost on Russia’s younger generation either, for whom the Victory Day celebration this year has become as much a symbol of defiance as it is a day to celebrate the Soviet Union’s victory over the Nazi regime and to pay homage to more than 26 million who died in World War II. “The West wants to crush Russia, to shut down our economy, but it won’t work,” says 23-year-old student Dana. Others say that while the West’s boycott upsets them, it also worries them. “We don’t want to see another cold war situation,” Tatyana Z (name withheld on request), who wants to be a diplomat tells The Hindu .

President Putin is also banking on the hope that the angry feelings on Moscow streets will translate into a boost for his own popularity ratings. As a result, the parade is being planned as a grand spectacle, with Russia’s infantry, tanks, and air force out on full display, and at least nine other armies, including India’s Grenadiers taking part.

However it isn’t the military might in Red Square, but Russia’s strategic and economic might that is being challenged by the empty chairs in the visitors’ stands, even as old friendships that are being reaffirmed by countries like India.

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