Still hope India will change its voting pattern at the UN: German Ambassador

Still hope India will change its voting pattern at the UN: German Ambassador

A day after German Foreign Minister Baerbock called External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, stressing the importance of “isolating Russia”, German Ambassador to India Walter Lindner says he still hopes India would change its voting position at the UN, where it has abstained on the Ukraine issue

Would you say that the last week has seen a point of no return between NATO countries and Russia?

Well, at least what I would say is it’s a turning point in history of Europe. It means the world after this will no longer be the same as the world before. At the heart of the question is, whether we allow [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to turn the clock back to days from the 19th century, where the great powers could dominate their neighbours? And do we have the strength to set limits to warmongers like Putin or not? With the attack on Ukraine, things have fundamentally changed. It’s a new era, a real turning point.

Russia has said that this is a problem that has been building for two decades, that since 1997, NATO expanded eastwards, taking in 14 countries closer and closer to Russia, and that Russia has essentially been trying to stop what it sees as a threat to its own defences. How do you respond to that?

This has nothing to do with reality, just false presentations and a false narrative. Of course, if you attack a peaceful neighbour, you need to have a kind of a fake excuse for it. These arguments which you brought, are not true. It is the free decision of a country as to which Alliance it wants to join. And this is not even on the table because nobody was deciding on Ukraine’s membership of NATO… This is an attack on the peace in Europe, an attack on our freedom, attack on international law. It’s a complete attack on rule based international order of peaceful human coexistence….

Germany has decided to supply arms and has sent heavy weaponry to Ukraine. Do you think the world has reversed the gains of the past 75 years of a multilateral order?

Well, let’s not give up our belief in a better world and in a better future. Now, for good reasons we had a very cautious policy towards arms exports: [Germany] had the holocaust, we had a Nazi past and we were responsible for so many millions of deaths. But with this historic hour, we have decided we will be in favour of military deliveries and weapons to [Ukraine] because this has to be done to help our neighbours. We are sending anti-tank weapons, 1500 Stinger missiles to Ukraine. But it’s not the only change in policy as we had decided we would spend annually not more than 2% of our gross income for military expenses, we were reluctant to do so. But Putin has made it clear to us that we have to defend ourselves, and our second decision was a budget increase for military spending. Third was the exclusion of Russian banks from Swift. We have taken other measures including blocking off German airspace for Russian aircraft, putting Nord Stream -2 [pipeline project] on hold, financial sanctions, asset freezing and travel bans. This is all a clear message to Putin.

Foreign Minister of Germany Annalena Baerbock had spoken to Dr. Jaishankar, the External Affairs Minister. Do you get the sense that India is any closer to Germany’s position on where they see Russian actions in Ukraine?

Well, this question would be ideally addressed to the Indian diplomats because they would have to define what India’s position has been, but we have made it clear in all these calls, in all our interventions, that we are all sitting in the same boat. We are defending the international order of rules based on non-violation of borders, and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a country. These are all principles, which India upholds. Not only us but many, many countries around the world [have spoken] to the Indian side. It is up to India to make these decisions of course. Ukraine might be far away from India. But if we tolerate human rights violations against all these victimised people, civilians and others in Ukraine… this might spread out to some other places in the world, maybe much closer to India. If we let Putin get away with this, then we all will suffer.

Even so, India has abstained from every UN Security Council resolution so far on this matter, how do you think this will affect the India-Germany relationship?

We are just hoping around the globe, that the international peace order is defended by everyone. So let’s not have a violator of the international order of peace, go out there without being criticised by everyone.

Are you disappointed that you have not been able to convey your point of view across to New Delhi to change its position?

There is still time, we are still conveying our ideas [to New Delhi]. If this kind of [Russian] warmongering becomes the new rule of the day, everyone will face the damage, and we hope that this argument is finding a fruitful soil [in India] and there will be some change, in explanations or in a vote or maybe some voting patterns will change [by India].

Is there a Western double standard playing as well: We didn’t see this kind of condemnation against US invasion of Iraq in 2003, or in 2011, when the UN mandate to protect was used to enforce regime change….

We would have to go into the details of all of these actions from Libya, to Iraq to other places, and see whether there are some parallels or not. But you might remember that Germany and France were not in favour of the invasion of Iraq, because we were not convinced [by the US’s arguments]. In this case [Ukraine] it is so obvious that this is wrong. That this is a breach of international law and of humanitarian law.

The Modi government says its primary focus, and its top most priority is bringing out Indians from the Ukraine safely. Is that a shared concern?

Of course, our hearts go out to all these Indian students who are victims, and neighbouring EU countries like Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary are receiving them at their borders and help to bring them back. But let’s not forget, they’re running away from the bombs, and the missiles of Mr. Putin’s war. It’s not an earthquake, or a pandemic that they are running away from… No, they’re running away from this incredible attack on Ukraine.

What is your message to the government about future votes at the UN, the UNGA, the Human Rights Council etc?

It is important that we stay close together and exchange our views constantly. And we do that on our voting patterns, voting behaviour and in the United Nations. I think the important thing is that we see, it’s not just a European issue, or about Ukraine, and NATO membership, or how do we see our relationship towards Russia. This is about the international rules based order being challenged.

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