India should lead the way on peace process, says Ukraine FM, pitches for Indian participat...

India should lead the way on peace process, says Ukraine FM, pitches for Indian participation in Swiss conference

Ukraine FM Kuleba says there is a ‘change’ in Delhi’s perspective on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, hopes for support in engaging Russia

Ukraine hopes that India will join a peace summit hosted by Switzerland this summer and also play a role in bringing Russia to the table, said its Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, ahead of a bilateral meeting with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Friday.

Mr. Kuleba’s visit, the first such high-level visit from Ukraine since the Russian attacks began in February 2022, is expected to focus on garnering diplomatic and mediatory support from the Modi government, as well as more technical assistance in reconstructing destroyed facilities in the country. Mr. Kuleba arrived in Delhi on Thursday morning and visited Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial at Rajghat. He is due to meet Mr. Jaishankar for a bilateral meeting, and will also meet with Deputy National Security Advisor Vikram Misri on Friday.

The visit by the Ukrainian Minister indicates a shift in both New Delhi and Kiev’s positions — as Mr. Kuleba had earlier been deeply critical of India’s purchases of Russian oil, while the Modi government has not sent any Minister to Kiev since the war began, and did not invite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to address the G-20 in 2023, as Kiev had requested.

Mr. Kuleba said that Ukraine believes that there is a “change in the perspective” in India’s position on the war now, and hoped that India would play a more proactive role in resolving the conflict through the Ukraine-initiated Swiss peace process.

“I am here because we see a change in the perspective of the war in India. I do believe in the capacity of India to lead, it is a global leader. If India wants to lead it must [take the initiative] that others would follow,” he said in response to a question from The Hindu during a discussion organised by the Delhi-based Council for Strategic and Defence Research (CSDR), adding that India’s confirmation of participation in the peace conference would have an impact on other countries around the world.

“Having India on board [at the Swiss summit] would add legitimacy to the effort,” he said. Pitching also for India to use its influence with Russia, which has not indicated it would join the summit yet, Mr. Kuleba said that he had no doubt that “at some point” talks with Russia would begin. “India can play a role in speaking to Russians about the peace process. I believe Russia needs India more than India needs Russia,” he added.

Sources confirmed that the Swiss government has formally invited India to participate in the conference, currently expected to be held in June, and is due to send its deputy Foreign Minister to Delhi to discuss the details; however, New Delhi has so far not responded to the invitation. When asked on Thursday, the MEA spokesperson said India’s position on peace initiatives was “clear” but did not commit a response to the invitation itself.

“We continue to encourage peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy, and remain open to engaging all ways and means that would help achieve this objective,” MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said in response to a question by The Hindu about the Swiss conference.

Speaking in Kuala Lumpur earlier this week, Mr. Jaishankar did not refer to the conference either but said that other countries had asked India to “pass messages” to Moscow on different aspects of the conflict.

“[India] has had the opportunity to talk to the Russians very frankly and bluntly on the issue [Russia-Ukraine conflict],” he added.

During the bilateral talks, Mr. Kuleba is also expected to raise Ukraine’s long-pending requests for infrastructure and equipment investment from India. Since the war began, India has sent 15 consignments with about 117 tonnes of humanitarian aid, including “medicines, medical equipment, blankets, tents, tarpaulin, solar lamps, dignity kits, sleeping mats, and diesel generator sets”, the government said in parliament in February.

However, permissions for more strategic infrastructure, including communication and transmission equipment for mobile cellular networks, medical equipment and devices, and construction equipment to be exported to Ukraine need a go-ahead from the government, an issue that was discussed during Mr. Kuleba’s meetings in Delhi with tech-industry and infrastructure business leaders.

In August 2022, Ukraine had expressed its disappointment over India’s decision to abstain from all UN resolutions that criticised Russia for the war, and for increasing oil purchases from Russia at discounted rates, which Mr. Kuleba termed as oil mixed with “blood of Ukrainians”. READ COMMENTSREAD LATERPRINT

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