India told the United Nations Security Council on Monday that it was concerned that a humanitarian corridor did not emerge for Indian students in Sumy, Ukraine, despite New Delhi urging both Russia and Ukraine to permit such a corridor.
Russia’s attack and invasion of Ukraine has precipitated one of Europe’s largest humanitarian crisis in decades, including for Indian and other foreign students who are stranded in the country. Some 700 Indian nationals, many of them medical students at Sumy State University, have been stranded in the eastern Ukrainian city after evacuation efforts failed due to continuous shelling, as per reports.
“Our Prime Minister once again spoke to the leadership of both sides today [ March 7 ] and reiterated our call for immediate ceasefire and the need for both parties to return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy,” India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UNPR), T.S. Tirumurti, said at a Council meeting to discuss the humanitarian crisis.
“ We have also reiterated our urgent demand for safe and uninterrupted passage for all innocent civilians, including Indian nationals, remaining in Ukraine. We are deeply concerned that despite our repeated urgings to both sides, the safe corridor for our students stranded in Sumi did not materialise,” he said.
Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the failure of evacuation corridors and they traded charges again during Monday’s meeting.
Mr. Tirumurti thanked Ukraine and its neighbouring countries for facilitating the return of over 20,000 Indian nationals in the last few days. He expressed India’s willingness to evacuate nationals of other countries as well. He also said India welcomed Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s ‘flash appeal’ for Ukraine and his regional refugee response plan. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres had announced, on March 1, a fundraising appeal , calling for $1.1 billion to assist 6 million Ukrainians inside Ukraine over an initial three-month period and a further $551 million to help those who have crossed over into neighbouring countries.
“We hope the international community will respond positively to the humanitarian needs,” he said. Mr Tirumurti detailed India’s humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
New Delhi has been walking a tightrope , trying to balance its strategic interests with Moscow and a West-backed Kyiv. However, the growing human tragedy and the small list of countries not willing to condemn Russia’s invasion of a sovereign country, has meant pressure on India- from the United States , for instance - to change its current position. On Monday, Mr. Tirumurti’s remarks to the Security Council suggested that offering humanitarian assistance was not inconsistent with “neutrality” .
“Allow me to underscore that it is important that humanitarian action is always guided by the principles of humanitarian assistance, humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. These should not be politicised,” he said.