Israel and Russia wars | Can India help end the conflicts?

In this episode of Worldview, we discuss whether India has a role in ending global conflicts. Also, does the Indian govt need a new protocol to protect those seeking jobs in conflict zones?

Updated - March 01, 2024 08:14 pm IST

Published - March 01, 2024 07:23 pm IST

We are looking at two separate aspects of the MEA’s role – one on mediation, the other on how to protect emigrants. But first, the latest in the Israel war on Gaza that is entering its sixth month shortly. The condition of about 2 million people in Gaza, crowded into the Southern part of the strip gets more direct by the day- with homes bombed, no access to food or clean water, and no way out. This week, 112 people were killed as crowds awaiting aid thronged trucks and Israeli soldiers manning the convoy opened fire on them.

1. The clock is ticking on an Israel-Hamas ceasefire plan, which US President Biden had said would be done by Monday, but now many believe will come in by the beginning of Ramzan on March 9 or 10th

2. More than 30,000 have already been killed, 70,000 injured- mostly women and children, in Israeli bombardment and ground operations in retaliation for the October 7 terror attacks in Israel that left about 1140 dead.

3. The ceasefire would pave the way for more hostage releases by Hamas- about 100 or so still remain in the group’s custody

So far mediation efforts have been run by the US and Qatar- on behalf of Israel and Hamas. Egypt and Jordan have also been involved in the effort.

Meanwhile to the other big conflict- Russia’s war in Ukraine, also mediation attempts have stepped up:

At the request of Ukraine, Switzerland’s government is working on a peace conference later this month where they hope to bring both Russia and Ukraine to the table

-Swiss officials are requesting India to attend, with the hope that India could play a part in bringing Russia to the conference, or even work on a ceasefire

-And like with Israel, India has spoken to both Russian and Ukrainian leaders, but not offered any criticism

-India has also send humanitarian aid to Ukraine, yet not sent any infrastructural aid that it requested So far, New Delhi has said it sees no role in mediation, although it has conveyed messages to Moscow- for the Grain deal initiative and on nuclear safety concerns in Ukraine’s Zaporizhia.

India’s history in Mediation is limited:

-In the 1950s Korean crisis, India actively mediated to control the conflict, led the UN commission on Korea, held elections and worked on the repatriation of prisoners between the two Koreas

-Around the same time, India also took a role in the Vietnam war, and tried to negotiate a ceasefire

However, since then, India has had little interest in mediation for a number of reasons:

1. India’s founding role in the Non Aligned Movement has prompted it to stay away from taking positions on many conflicts

2. Limited leverage- India is not a permanent member of the UNSC, nor is its share of global economy and trade, less than 3% enough to take a decisive position

3. India has consistently opposed mediation in conflicts like Jammu Kashmir- mediating would open it to questions about that policy

4. In other conflicts, like Sri Lanka, India opposed the Norwegian role in favour of the LTTE

5. India’s zero tolerance policy on terrorism also makes mediating or talking to armed groups more difficult.

6. India’s diaspora is in every part of the world- and hence the government’s first priority is negotiating to bring Indians out of harm’s way, not to resolve the conflict itself

A word on the MEA’s policy for emigrants in conflict zones:

1. India discourages the travel of Indians to conflict areas, and the MEA repeated that in a statement this week.

This was in response to a number of articles in The Hindu, authored by my colleague Vijaita Singh

2. The MEA controls and vets the emigration of workers to 18 countries including some conflict zones- Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan and South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

3. As the number of Indian expatriates has increased- Indians are increasingly stuck in conflicts – this week the MEA admitted that about 20 Indians who had travelled to work in Russia had unwittingly been taken to the front for fighting, and India is now negotiating their discharge from the Russian Military

4. In addition, at the request of Israeli PM Netanyahu, the government green-lighted the recruitment of Indian construction workers to replace Palestinians who have been banned from working in Israel after the attacks. The worry now that they too could be taken into conflict areas , including occupied territories or Gaza.

5. Clearly, there is a need for a new policy that updates global conflict zones, and makes it mandatory for those travelling there to have vetted contracts, full information of their deployment and insurance paid by employers. More in The Hindu editorial

WV Take: As global conflicts spread, it is harder for India to remain uninvolved in their resolution- but credibility that comes from being truly neutral in a conflict, can often be the first casualty to any mediation efforts. At the same time, New Delhi has to step up its controls of Indians going into conflict zones, lest they too be seen as partisan in the problem, and are targeted.

WV Reading Recommendations:

On Mediation:

1. The Mediator A Biography of Martti Ahtisaari: by Merikallio and Ruokanen

2. DIPLOMACY by Henry Kissinger (1995)

3. To End a War: The Conflict in Yugoslavia--America’s Inside Story--Negotiating with Milosevic 999 by Richard Holbrooke, as also Our Man by George Packer

4. A Journey: My Political Life by Tony Blair- on the Irish peace process

5. Ulfa: The Mirage of Dawn by Rajeev Bhattacharya

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.