India will be “glad” to help in bringing about a resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar said on Wednesday. Speaking in the Lok Sabha during a discussion under Rule 193 regarding the crisis in Ukraine and its implications, Dr. Jaishankar said that Russia is “a very important partner” but also held that India is against the conflict. He acknowledged the support provided by Russia, Ukraine and even Indian nationals based in Eastern Europe during Operation Ganga to evacuate Indian students from Ukraine.
“In terms of diplomacy, India continues to press forcefully for an immediate cessation of hostilities and an end to violence. We encourage talks between Ukraine and Russia, including at the level of their Presidents. The Prime Minister has spoken to them both in this regard. This was precisely the message that was conveyed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov when he was in Delhi. If India can be of any assistance in this matter, we will be glad to contribute,” Dr. Jaishankar said, reiterating India’s commitment to supply humanitarian goods to Ukraine.
The EAM stated that the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Svyrydenko, had requested him over a telephone call for more medical supplies to deal with the crisis. The Minister pointed to the non-military fallout of the crisis, which has affected a wide spectrum of economic activities like the energy and fertilisers sectors, and said the government is trying to ensure food security for common people in the country as well as in countries abroad. As part of the government’s response to the crisis, he assured, India will step forward to meet “global demands for food, grains and other materials”.
“Our effort today is to stabilise economic transactions between India and Russia because this is very important for us. Russia is a very important partner in a variety of areas,” Dr. Jaishankar said, indirectly referring to the crucial role that Russia plays in India’s defence sector. Russia continues to remain the largest arms supplier to India despite strong competition from France, Israel, the United States and other western countries. The specific remarks on economic ties with Russia came after Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury sought an explanation on how India would conduct business with Russia as that country was hit by western sanctions.
“At the moment, there is an inter-Ministerial group, which is led by the Finance Ministry, which is seeing how the payments issue can be best addressed. There are experiences from the past which are relevant in this regard,” Dr. Jaishankar said, indicating at the pivotal role the Finance Ministry will pay in ensuring a smooth channel for transactions with Russia.
Dr. Jaishankar conveyed India’s strong opposition to the ongoing conflict. “We believe no solution can be arrived at by shedding blood and at the cost of innocent lives. In this day and age, dialogue and diplomacy are the right answers to any dispute and this should be borne in mind. If India has chosen a side — it is the side of peace and it is for an immediate end to violence. This is our principled stand and it has consistently guided our position in international forums and debates, including in the United Nations.”
The Minister said that the conflict in Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia on February 24, posed a unique challenge in evacuating Indian students trapped in Kharkiv, Sumy and Kyiv, among other locations. “No other country has carried out a similar operation. Other countries are inspired by our evacuation. I met the Foreign Minister of a country recently who said that they flew out two aircraft from Ukraine with their citizens, and he was surprised that we flew out 90 evacuation flights,” Dr. Jaishankar said. He also said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to intervene to ensure students could be evacuated safely from Kharkiv, and that he had to dial both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainian leadership to create a conducive environment for evacuation.