‘Not the right time’: Indian PM Narendra Modi rebukes Vladimir Putin over Ukraine war

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that now is not a time for war, and directly attacked the Kremlin chief over the nearly seven-month-old conflict in Ukraine.

Faced with the West over the war, Putin has repeatedly said that Russia is not isolated because it can turn east to major Asian powers such as China and India.

But at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), concerns spilled out into the open.
“I know today is not a time of war, and I spoke to you on the phone about this,” Modi told Putin in a televised meeting in the ancient Uzbek Silk Road city of Samarkand.
As Mr. Modi made this observation, the Supreme Leader of Russia since 1999 has been following his lips, looking at Mr. Modi and then looking down before touching the hair on the back of his head.

Putin told Mr Modi that he understood the Indian leader had concerns about Ukraine, but that Moscow was doing everything it could to end the conflict.

“I know your position on the conflict in Ukraine, the concerns that you constantly express,” Putin said. “We will do everything we can to stop this as soon as possible.”

India has shied away from explicitly condemning Russia for the invasion that drove up oil and other commodity prices.

Democracy, diplomacy and dialogue

But Modi stressed the importance of “democracy, diplomacy and dialogue” at the meeting, Indian radio station Doordarshan showed.
Mr Modi added that they would discuss “how to move forward on the path to peace”.

Putin said Ukraine had rejected the negotiations. Ukraine has said it will fight until all Russian forces leave its territory.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he would never accept a “peace” that would allow Russia to keep Ukraine’s land.

The war in Ukraine, which erupted when Putin ordered troops to invade it on February 24, has killed tens of thousands of soldiers, caused the worst confrontation with the West since the Cold War and pushed the global economy into an inflationary spiral.

verb balancing

New Delhi has long walked a tightrope in its relations with the West and Moscow – and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlighted the difficulty of striking this balance.

It has urged a cessation of hostilities but has repeatedly ignored calls from Washington to condemn Russia, despite India’s quest to strengthen security ties with the United States.

Unusually, India is a member of both the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the so-called Quartet, a strategic bloc comprising the United States, Japan and Australia, intended to provide a more substantial counterweight to China’s rising military and economic power.

Former Indian ambassador to Russia Pankaj Saran called Modi’s comments “very frank”, saying the Ukraine crisis “has caught the attention of the whole world and created problems for the developing world”.

‘strong message’

“This was a fairly strong message for Russia,” Doordarshan said.

“As a friend, his recommendation and India’s position is that this needs to be resolved only through dialogue and diplomacy.”

Putin visited New Delhi late last year, embraced Modi and praised India as a “great power” as the two men strengthened military and energy ties.
India is the second largest arms importer in the world after Saudi Arabia, and according to the Business Standard, between 2016 and 20, 49.4 percent of its purchases were from Russia.

The Asian giant of 1.4 billion people is also a major consumer of Russian oil, increasing its discounted purchases in the wake of the Western embargo.

color revolutions

On Thursday, Putin told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he understood Mr. Xi had concerns about the situation in Ukraine but praised the Beijing leader for his “balanced” stance on the conflict.

Xi, on his first trip outside China since early 2020, has not publicly mentioned the war in Ukraine.
The Chinese leader said the world had entered a new period of turmoil and that partners like Putin and Central Asian leaders should prevent foreign powers from instigating “color revolutions”.

“The world has entered a new period of turbulent change, and we should grasp the trend of the times, strengthen solidarity and cooperation, and promote the building of a closer community of destiny with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” Xi said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (centre) clanging glasses. source: AAP

“We should support each other’s efforts to protect security and development interests, prevent outside forces from making color revolutions, and oppose interference in other countries’ internal affairs under any pretext.”

Zero-sum games and agglomeration politics

Xi slammed “loss games and bloc politics,” a veiled reference to the United States that Beijing has criticized in the past for relying on allies to counter China’s spectacular rise to great power status on hold.
Putin has repeatedly said that the United States is planning so-called “color revolutions” along the lines of those that have ousted established elites from power in places like Ukraine.
The United States denies such allegations and says they show the terrifying nature of Putin’s Russia.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014 after a pro-Russian president was ousted in the Maidan revolution and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, where Russian-backed separatists are fighting Ukraine’s armed forces.
The stability-obsessed Chinese Communist Party, which next month will likely give President Xi a third term of leadership and cement his position as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, has in the past warned of so-called “color revolutions”.

A source in the Uzbek government told Reuters on Friday that the Chinese president stayed away from a dinner attended by 11 heads of state in line with his delegation’s policy on COVID-19.

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