Raisina Dialogue | European delegation urges India to support Ukraine mired in war

MEA’s Raisina Dialogue sees large turnout of European Foreign Ministers; Jaishankar hosts lunch for Nordic-Baltic forum

Updated - February 23, 2024 07:22 am IST

Published - February 23, 2024 12:15 am IST - NEW DELHI:

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishnkar with Denmark Foreign Affairs Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen during a meeting on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue 2024, in New Delhi, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishnkar with Denmark Foreign Affairs Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen during a meeting on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue 2024, in New Delhi, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

European Ministers gathered for the Ministry of External Affairs’ Raisina Dialogue here urged India to reconsider trade and ties with Russia, and to press the case for Ukraine’s sovereignty ahead of the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that falls on February 24. The ministers, that made up a large majority, numbering 15 of the 21 Foreign Ministers speaking at the annual conference, have been meeting with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar separately since Wednesday, as well as during a lunch hosted by him for some of them for the India-Nordic-Baltic forum on Thursday.  In particular, they urged India to join a “Peace Conference” in Switzerland, set to be held shortly, at the request of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to sources, Mr. Jaishankar also discussed this with the Swiss Foreign Minister recently.

“What we have been arguing is that the war of Russia in Ukraine is not only about Ukraine, but also about one country violating the sovereign borders of another country, and that undermines international law and the UN Charter,” Latvian Foreign Minister Krišjānis Kariņš told The Hindu after the lunch meeting. “We think that as European countries and India, as democracies, what we have inherently in common is the understanding that the rule of law must be upheld,” he added, urging New Delhi to express more support for Ukraine, where tens of thousands are believed to have been killed, and more than 14 million people displaced (of which 6 million live as refugees outside the country). 

Since February 2022, the Modi government has abstained from all United Nations resolutions on Ukraine, maintained ties with Russia while sending aid to Ukraine, and has increased India’s intake of Russian oil multi-fold, making it the source for a third of India’s oil imports. 

Echoing the message given by other European countries during the conference, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said those neighbouring Ukraine are particularly worried about a loss for Ukraine in the conflict. Speaking to The Hindu, he said that Baltic countries believe that as the Russian forces grow more entrenched in Ukraine’s east, Russia could attempt to annex more territory in other countries. In an interview to a U.S. journalist last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin had said that any further “territorial claims” were “absolutely out of the question”. 

‘Mobilising troops’

“Russia has diverted all of its resources towards the war effort, and our information is it will be mobilising about 4,00,000 additional troops, making it the largest standing army in Europe, reminiscent of cold war times,” said Mr. Landsbergis, speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue, that is organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF). He added that he had “good conversations” with Indian officials, and had made the case that “funding Russia’s budget with oil purchases” would help Russia “produce bullets that will take Ukrainian lives,” although he added that he wouldn’t tell India what to do.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, German Minister of State in the Federal Foreign Office Tobias Lindner said that he sees India’s position shifting in terms of diversifying its military hardware procurement from Russia to other countries like the U.S. and Germany.

“The lesson we have to learn is that we need to diversify our supply chain. I believe India has come to the same conclusion with respect to China, not be too dependent on one country. That’s what I would say about [dependence on] Russia too,” Mr. Lindner said in response to a question about his response to Mr. Jaishankar’s statement that Russia has “never hurt India’s interests”.  He also called on India to participate in the upcoming Peace Conference in Switzerland, and to “have its voice heard” on the issue.

The European ministerial contingent at the Raisina Dialogue is by far the largest, while no ministerial-level representation from Russia, China or other P-5 countries U.S., U.K. and France is present at this year’s conference. Foreign Ministers of most G-20 countries were attending the G-20’s First Plenary in Rio De Janeiro held on February 21-22 that clashed with the Raisina Dialogue dates. Apart from 15 European countries including Greece, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Hungary, Estonia, Czechia, Slovakia, Romania, Liechtenstein, Albania, Bosnia, Latvia and Lithuania, other Foreign Ministers attending the conference are from Panama, Ghana, Tanzania, Mauritius, Bhutan and Nepal.

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