Europe uneasy despite Modi’s peace mantra

Published July 10, 2024
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.—AFP
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.—AFP

• Indian PM tells Putin ‘war cannot solve problems’
• Zelensky regrets hug for ‘world’s most bloody criminal’

MOSCOW: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday told President Vladimir Putin that “war cannot solve problems” and urged “peace through dialogue” on a trip to Moscow more than two years into the Ukraine offensive.

Modi touched down in Moscow as tensions flared in Europe, following a massive Russian missile barrage in Ukraine that Kyiv said hit a children’s hospital in the capital.

During his first meeting with Putin in Russia since the Kremlin launched its campaign in Ukraine, Modi said the conflict was discussed “openly and in detail”.

“When innocent children are murdered, one sees them die, the heart pains and that pain is unbearable,” Modi told Putin in comments in Hindi.

The Indian premier arrived in Moscow Monday hours after strikes that hit cities across Ukraine killed at least 38 people.

“I know that war cannot solve problems, solutions and peace talks can’t succeed among bombs, guns, and bullets,” the Indian leader added. “And we need to find a way to peace through dialogue,” he said.

On Monday evening, Modi was pictured hugging Putin at his country residence, drawing condemnation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

He wrote on social media: “It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day.”

Putin thanked Modi for “the attention you pay to the most urgent problems” and said “you are trying to find some ways to solve the Ukrainian crisis, too, of course primarily by peaceful means”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later told Russian news agencies that Modi “is not claiming to offer mediation efforts”, however.

Modi wrote on X that the talks were “productive” on “ways to diversify India-Russia cooperation in sectors such as trade, commerce, security, agriculture, technology and innovation”.

Afterwards, Putin decorated Modi with the country’s top medal for civilians, the Order of St Andrew the Apostle the First Called, and the leaders embraced again.

The US on Monday urged Modi to make clear to Putin that “any resolution to the conflict in Ukraine must... be one that respects the UN Charter with respect to Ukraine’s territorial integrity”.

Arms and oil

India has largely shied away from explicit condemnation of Russia ever since and abstained on United Nations resolutions targeting the Kremlin.

But Russia’s fight with Ukraine has also had a human cost for India.

New Delhi said in February it was pushing Moscow to return several of its citizens who had signed up for “support jobs” with the Russian military, following reports some had been killed after being forced to fight in Ukraine. Putin and Modi did not comment publicly on this.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2024

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