Ukraine’s Presidential aide clarifies remark on India, China’s ‘intellectual potential’

Podolyak’s remarks came just days after Ukraine’s foreign ministry described the Joint Declaration at the New Delhi G20 summit as ‘nothing to be proud of’.

September 14, 2023 01:49 am | Updated 01:49 am IST - NEW DELHI

A day after creating an international flutter with his remark on the “intellectual potential” of India and China, a top Ukrainian official has issued a clarification saying that India, China and Turkiye are “justified” in playing bigger roles in the world.

The remarks from Mykhailo Podolyak, Adviser to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, came just days after Ukraine’s foreign ministry described the Joint Declaration at the New Delhi G20 summit as “nothing to be proud of.”

“Of course, Turkiye, India, China and other regional powers are increasingly and clearly justified in claiming global roles in the modern world - and there are all the reasons for this: historical, economic, cultural, scientific and political. And these roles have long been much more extensive than Russia’s. But the global world is much broader than even the most thoughtful regional national interests,” said Mr Podolyak in a statement on Wednesday that was circulated through social media platforms. 

Mykhailo Podolyak came into global limelight in February-March 2022 when the first and second rounds of negotiation between Ukrainian and Russian teams took place in Belarus’ Gomel region and Belovezhskaya Pushcha. These talks were important to ensure safe evacuation of foreigners (including Indians) as well as Ukrainians who took refuge in neighbouring countries.

Intellectual potential

Earlier, in an interview Mr Podolyak said, “What’s the problem with China, India etc. - they are not able to analyse the consequences of their actions - these countries have low intellectual potential, unfortunately. Yes, they invest in science. Yes, India has launched a lunar rover recently which is now trekking on the surface of the Moon, but that does not indicate that this country fully comprehends what the modern world is about.“ 

The remark made in Ukrainian spread through Russian state-run Sputnik news agency, and other channels, creating a worldwide flutter and drew countless critical remarks from Indians and people from other parts of the developing world online. The Ministry of External Affairs is yet to react on the comment.

Mr Podolyak’s remark was a continuation of the criticism of the New Delhi summit of G20 which has been the focus of Ukrainian criticism since the Joint Declaration of the meet was announced by PM Narendra Modi on September 9.

Grouse over declaration

They pointed out that the joint declaration did not mention Russia as the violator of Ukraine’s sovereignty. Soon after the announcement of the Joint Declaration, Oleg Nikolenko, Spokesperson of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “We are grateful to the partners who tried to include strong wording in the text. However, in terms of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, G20 has nothing to be proud of.” He also edited the text of the Joint Declaration regarding Ukraine and added a screenshot of that edited text in his social media messages on multiple platforms like ‘X’ (formerly Twitter). 

In Wednesday’s clarification, Mr Podolyak blamed Russia for weakening “the global world by trying to break international law” and added, “One way or another, it is irrational to ignore this due to situational and regional economic interests, as it has long-term consequences.” He also blamed the controversy regarding his observations on “intellectual potential” of India and China on “classic Russian propaganda”.

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