Government seeks unity on foreign policy in Ukraine debate

Chest thumping on evacuation self-defeating: Manish Tewari

April 05, 2022 10:56 pm | Updated 11:03 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Union Minister Minister of Law Kiren Rijiju speaks in the Lok Sabha during the second part of Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on April 5, 2022.

Union Minister Minister of Law Kiren Rijiju speaks in the Lok Sabha during the second part of Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on April 5, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Members of Parliament should be united regarding Indian foreign policy, Union Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju said on Tuesday.

Intervening in a debate initiated by RSP MP N.K. Premchandran under Rule 193 to discuss the crisis in Ukraine, Mr Rijiju recollected personal experience of travelling to the Slovak Republic and thanked all countries neighbouring Ukraine that helped in the evacuation of Indian students from various war-torn Ukrainian cities. MPs cutting across party lines praised the Nehruvian legacy of non-alignment that has helped India remain neutral in the face of the devastating conflict.

"Try to imagine the circumstances in which the students were repatriated. Ukrainians were busy with counter offensive. Missiles were flying overhead. In that circumstance our diplomats worked to evacuate our students. Lakhs of people were leaving Ukraine that I saw myself. We are not taking credit. Any other government would have also done the same," said Mr. Rijiju.

He acknowledged that a large number of people, including overseas Indians, played a role in ensuring safety and security of the students caught in the middle of the crisis as Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Participating in the debate, Congress MP Manish Tewari commended the government for its policy on the Ukraine conflict and said India has carried out evacuations from several countries in the past like Libya (2011), Kuwait (1990), and Lebanon (2006).

He, however, added, "Regret to say, I have never seen such chest thumping as this time. Making children raise slogans praising the government while on board evacuation flights was a self-defeating exercise, and undid the goodwill generated by the Operation (Ganga)."

Members also urged India to play a more active role in bringing the conflict to an end while also highlighting that the Government was slow in responding to the humanitarian challenge posed by the presence of thousands of Indian students in Ukraine when Russia attacked the country. Dr Farooq Abdullah of National Conference said India must take steps in "de-escalating this war". Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said, "Other embassies were quicker at bringing out their citizens than ours. Also, students encountered difficulties getting to the border points. It was quite unnecessary for our government to do some publicity seeking in other countries for bringing back our own people."

Mr Tharoor also observed that India could have been "stronger in language against Russia's actions".

"We have a special partnership with Russia, we respect that, but in this instance, Russia has resorted to use of force. We may owe the Soviet Union for its support but that includes both Russia and Ukraine," said Mr Tharoor referring to India's friendship with the erstwhile Soviet Union, which consisted of Russia and several other republics including Ukraine.

BSP MP Shyam Singh Yadav criticised both the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) as well as Russia. Referring to the NATO's eastward expansion Mr. Yadav said, "It was natural for Russia to be worried. But still attacking Ukraine is not alright." Mr. Yadav also observed that the Government should have acted earlier as the Russian military build-up had been underway for months prior to the actual invasion. Mr Yadav criticised Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky and said, "Zelensky should have compromised in view of the large-scale destruction and death that is taking place in Ukraine."

NCP's Supriya Sule praised the Nehruvian legacy of non-alignment and congratulated External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar for conducting Operation Ganga that evacuated students from Ukraine and said the violence in Ukraine is "unpardonable".

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