Hope India reconsiders, takes more critical stance against Russia: Polish Foreign Minister

Hope India reconsiders, takes more critical stance against Russia: Polish Foreign Minister

Warsaw calls for New Delhi to join humanitarian conference on Ukraine, seeks support on demand for Russia’s ouster from G-20

Poland has been one of the most vocal members of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in demanding tougher sanctions and increased defence spending for operations to counter Russia’s war in Ukraine. Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, who will speak at MEA’s Raisina Dialogue this week, says he hopes India will take a more critical stance against Russia’s actions as well.

Your visit to India to attend the Raisina Dialogue comes as the Russian war in Ukraine has completed two months. What are your hopes from the visit?

Poland condemned the unprovoked and unjustified Russian aggression against Ukraine from the very beginning. We have not changed our mind. We stand with Ukraine and are committed to providing our Ukrainian partners with all kind of help. We can all see that Russia is deliberately hitting civilian targets, thus committing war crimes. Poland has already accepted three million refugees from Ukraine. Our allies from the European Union and NATO share the same view and we are doing our best to help Ukraine defend the lives of its people, its independence and territorial integrity. I will be keen to share my assessment of this unjustified war and its consequences (also for Russia and its citizens) with my Indian interlocutors.

I know that India also stands for the independence and territorial integrity of all sovereign states and condemns violence as the modus operandi in international relations. Aggression against sovereign countries must be condemned as it threatens global peace and order. In this regard I can see convergence of views with my Indian interlocutors.

On 5 May we are organizing in Warsaw — together with Sweden — a high-level donors conference aimed at gathering humanitarian support for Ukraine from all over the world. We also need to think about the reconstruction of Ukraine already now. We encourage India strongly to take part in this difficult process as well.

How much of Poland’s assessment of Russia’s plans in Ukraine was shared with the Indian government before the war, and how do you see India’s response to the crisis?

Poland has been warning the international community, including India, about the aggressive policy of Russia for a very long time. We still remember Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, as well as Russia’s first aggression against Ukraine in 2014. The late Polish President Lech Kaczyński warned in 2008 in Tbilisi, that Ukraine might be the next target of Russian imperialism and aggression, and he was right. It should be emphasized here that the war in Ukraine has been going on since 2014, and now we are seeing its next iteration. We can see that India is monitoring the situation closely and we do hope that over the time it will also take a more critical stance towards Russia’s belligerent behavior.

New Delhi has not in any way referred directly to Russia’s actions in Ukraine so far… and abstained from all votes at UN and other multilateral agencies that criticise Russia. India has also stepped up oil purchases at discounted prices from Russia, and discussed an alternative payment mechanism to subvert sanctions during a recent visit by Foreign Minister Lavrov. Will you raise these in talks with EAM Jaishankar?

The European Union adopted severe sanctions against Russia and we are close to making a strategic decision to cut our dependence on energy imports from Russia. It will be costly, but in present situation we are ready to bear the additional costs as it is of crucial importance to deprive the Kremlin of its main source of revenue, which is now used to finance the war. We cannot pay for Russian oil with Ukrainian sovereignty. We believe that the time has come for all democratic countries, which abide by international law and hold dear basic human rights, to stop all oil and gas imports from Russia.

We are aware that Russia tries to circumvent restrictive measures imposed by the EU and other like-minded countries through enhanced cooperation with certain partners. Therefore, we encourage all of our allies to pay attention to the EU sanctions on Russia, as they are a set of legitimate and necessary measures aiming at restoring international order and the rule of law. In the context of Russian violation of all fundamental international norms, including the UN Charter, as well as having in mind a strong condemnation of Russian aggression of Ukraine by most major economies in the world, every country should be extremely cautious in its relations with Russian authorities. India — as an important member of global community, member of G20 and the 6th largest economy in the world, with a long-standing tradition of democracy and non-violence — has a special role to play in this regard.

Poland has also stepped up a campaign to ensure Russia is not included in the G20 in Indonesia this year, and your Trade Minister has suggested that Poland deserves to be included in the grouping. As India takes over Presidency of the G20 in December, have you discussed this directly?

We believe that in the face of Russia’s unprovoked military aggression towards Ukraine, there is no room for “business as usual” in international organizations. Russia and Belarus should be excluded or suspended from the rights of members of international organizations, and their access to the instruments of these entities, G20 included, should be blocked wherever it is possible. The removal or suspension of Russia’s membership in G20 currently seems difficult. We are aware of close ties connecting India with Russia, resulting mainly from traditional Indian multipolar foreign policy and its commitment to the values of non-alignment. However, we perceive a grave risk of diminishing the role of G20, as some of its members, especially G7 countries and their allies, may formally oppose any form of Russian engagement within G20 and their representatives may not be willing to participate in any meetings with their Russian counterparts.

Putin’s vicious war presented us all with a new reality of slower growth, trade disruptions and steeper inflation, harming especially the poorest and most vulnerable. Therefore, we hope that India could rethink the role of Russia in G20 and discuss this issue with those Group members, which took positive or neutral stance regarding future participation of Russia in G20 works. We believe that the boycott of any meetings with the participation of Russian representatives, or canceling Russia’s invitation to the G20 summit (this year under the G20 presidency of Indonesia) should remain on the table.

Even though Poland is not yet a G20 member, we are very much interested in strengthening our role in the Group. Poland has the strongest economy of the entire Three Seas region and the V4, which is currently not represented in the G20. We call for reform of the G20 – Russia should be excluded from the Group and we would be keen to take its place. We would be glad if India could reconsider its position regarding the role of Russia in G20.

Has the Indian government also discussed the possible future of Indian students resuming their education at Polish medical universities, and will that be accommodated?

Poland helped to evacuate from Ukraine over 6,000 Indian students. They were crossing the land border and then going to Rzeszów, where they entered the flights organized by the Indian Government. I met Minister of State V.K. Singh in Rzeszów, he was coordinating this operation in Poland. From the very beginning, the Government of Poland cooperated with the Government of India in this matter. We remember that the Royal Families of Jamnagar (Gujarat) and Kolhapur (Maharashtra) offered a helping hand to Polish citizens during World War II. We remember the Good Maharaja and we share the same spirit.

We welcome Indian students at any time in Poland, especially when they are deprived of the possibility to continue their education in a war-torn Ukraine. Citizens of India who studied in Ukraine and came to Poland after the outbreak of the war in that country, after legalizing their stay in Poland, can study in our country without any problems, under financial conditions depending on their status. For this, they should contact directly with the university of their choice.

The overall value of India-Poland trade is $2-3 bilion at present. How do you see the trade benefiting from India-EU BTIA talks, and will there be a push for those talks, suspended since 2013, and not restarted despite many leadership-level commitments, to be restarted now?

India is one of Poland’s key economic partners in Asia and our fifth trade partner in the region. However, over the course of the last few years, Poland’s trade deficit with India grew to over $1.7 billion. We are convinced that there are still many possibilities for further expansion of the mutually beneficial trade and investment relations, which would result in stronger and more balanced bilateral trade. We would appreciate the help of Indian Government in reducing barriers to our trade in goods and services.

Many economic analyses show that there is a huge gap between potential and current size of exports from Poland to your country. The main causes of this untapped potential are both high tariffs and non-tariff barriers. Solving these problems could translate into significant mutual economic benefits.

The signing of ambitious EU-India trade and investment agreements would undoubtedly contribute to removal of current barriers to our economic cooperation. Polish companies offer advanced solutions in areas such as green energy, water and wastewater management, mining, medicate and cybersecurity. However, many barriers to trade in goods and services make it harder to provide India with technologies that might benefit not only Indian industries, but also local communities. We strongly believe that Poland and India should work together and we are keen for strengthening our mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation.

Poland has decided to pull out of contracts for Covid vaccines with Pfizer Biontech, owing to the high costs of the vaccines. Would you discuss the purchase of Indian vaccines during this visit, and how do the two countries hope to cooperate on Covid cooperation?

Poland’s situation regarding COVID-19 pandemic has stabilised substantially in recent months. Coupled with the fact that a large part of Polish population is already vaccinated, it translates to reduced interest in vaccines contracts. It is too early to assess whether we will need to search for additional suppliers of COVID-19 vaccines in particular, but we are sure that there is a huge potential for our cooperation with India in pharmaceutical and medical equipment sectors. Poland and India have long-lasting traditions of pharmaceutical sector. Polish pharmaceutical companies offer highly advanced drugs which are produced using the most innovative technologies in modern R&B labs. We encourage Indian pharmaceutical companies to learn more about the offer of Polish companies to start mutually beneficial cooperation with them.

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