On March 28-29, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba visited India. This was the first visit of a Ukrainian foreign minister in seven years. In New Delhi, Kuleba met with his Indian counterpart Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

Following negotiations, Kuleba described three key tasks for Ukrainian diplomacy towards India: i) the return of economic and political cooperation to what it was pre-invasion; ii) to work with the India-Ukraine Inter-Governmental Commission on new projects and programs that should ameliorate Ukraine-India relations; and iii) Peace Formula implementation.

The results of the trip are promising. However, there is some dissatisfaction in India regarding criticism aimed at the country for maintaining a neutral stance, with reproach for the lack of understanding of the Indian position and a disregard for Indian interests. India also rejects complaints about its cooperation with Russia – a strategic partner for New Delhi – as well as attacks for not supporting sanctions against Russia and indirectly helping to bypass those.

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It seems, however, that Kyiv is changing its policy towards New Delhi. Kuleba also reported that Ukrainian diplomacy is working on organizing the visits of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Ukraine and President Volodymyr Zelensky to India. The upcoming meeting could be a new chapter in the history of bilateral relations.

Indias position

Although Kuleba announced a change in India’s position on the war, New Delhi generally continues to adhere to traditional neutrality. In doing so, it insists on the need for a peaceful solution to the conflict, although not specifying under what conditions this could be achieved. Calls for a peaceful settlement emphasize the peace-loving and tolerant nature of India’s foreign policy.

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The position of “positive neutrality” means an active participation in the discussion of current issues of the international agenda under the conditions of compliance with the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign countries. This principle lies at the core of India’s “strategic autonomy.” After all, neutrality, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference, and promotion of mutually beneficial cooperation with countries of different political and economic development, are the main principles of peaceful coexistence that India has followed since the mid-1950s.

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It is this approach that enables India to continue advocating for the development of relations with both Ukraine and Russia. It is also this approach that allows India to maintain a partnership with Russia while remaining a partner of the US. In turn, this contributes to India’s positive image among the countries of the Global South and on the world stage. India’s reputation is less toxic than China’s (due to the lack of open confrontation with other major powers), which makes India a more acceptable candidate for a potential mediator in Russian-Ukrainian war resolution.

In the first year and a half after Russia’s full-scale invasion, many hopes were placed on China to facilitate the settlement of the conflict. Now it is obvious that those hopes were vain. India can grasp the chance to come forward and prove its capability of being a decisive leader.

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Peace Formula and Peace Summit

India is a key player and a key country whose voice is influential and significant. Its reputation in the global arena makes it extremely important to ensure India joins the Peace Summit scheduled later this year is Switzerland.

Ukraine is wondering whether misunderstandings will arise if both India and China, who are competitors for geopolitical influence, are at the Summit. The answer to this question lies in Indian strategy. The strategy implies active participation in international affairs and presence in international platforms at various levels — global, interregional and regional.

China’s presence is likely to be a motivating factor rather than a deterrent for India. Therefore, India is trying to impede China’s leadership and is actively participating in those associations where China is present in order to compete (BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization). Given little prospect of China solving the conflict, India can and should seize the initiative. That said, the absence of Russian representatives at the Summit may be a deterrent for India.

It is worth noting that India has participated in all the peace talks organized by Ukraine: in Copenhagen, Jeddah, Malta and Davos. Therefore, it is quite logical to expect an Indian Prime Minister in Switzerland as well. Nevertheless, Indian neutrality obliges New Delhi to only partially support President Zelensky’s Peace Formula.

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Global issues such as nuclear, ecology and food security will be a priority for India. At the same time, it is unlikely that the Indian side will support the points regarding the withdrawal of Russian troops from the occupied territories and holding Russia accountable for war crimes against Ukraine. That could potentially jeopardize the strategic relationship between India and Russia, and New Delhi is not ready for that at the moment.

In India, Ukraine’s foreign minister gave an interview to the Indian channel NDTV. Speaking about the Peace Summit, Kuleba said that the Peace Formula is a “menu” that lists all the main problems caused by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“I use the word ‘menu’ deliberately so that any country can choose the issue it wants to work on,” he explained.

This seems to be the right approach to working with countries in the Global South, which have largely taken a neutral position regarding Russia’s invasion for various reasons.

With this approach, it is possible to achieve consolidation of international pressure on Russia to stop nuclear blackmail, ecocide in Ukraine and secure food supplies to the countries of the Global South through the Black Sea. In addition, influential countries such as India are well placed to facilitate effective negotiations on the exchange of prisoners and deportees, as well as the return of children illegally taken to Russian territory.

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Eventually, other countries may be able to join the Peace Formula implementation more confidently, following the example of India.

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

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Comments (2)

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John
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Good article. I get what Ukraine is now reaching for in its India diplomacy. It's less than it deserves IMO, but I sincerely hope it at leasts gets something useful.

As an external spectator, of the 3 impacted nations, it sure seems russia and India have so far been the net beneficiaries of Ukraine's suffering.

From the article it sounds like India is now not enjoying the light in which some Ukraine allies cast its "Positive Neutrality" policy. They need to separate out their hurt feelings from their reasons for not aiding Ukraine more. Ukraine itself has been incredible diplomatic and patient with them....as they have with China.

So India please note that it's Ukraine's many allies calling out your neutrality. I'm in Canada, and with no connection to Ukraine fully support its victory with military assistance. I don't actually understand how any nation that believes in international law and the sanctity of international boundaries can do otherwise. So I still only see India's neutrality as mostly useful for putin.

For India itself it also sets a scary precedent. Modi is basically saying its okay for all potential allies to adopt a "positive neutrality' stance should China further encroaches on its territory.

As you wish. Seems more affordable for fellow democracies if thats what he wants.

Now, I wonder what China and India might be selling cheap if those two parties go to war?

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Oil
This comment contains spoilers. Click here if you want to read.

India only changed their position because their oil storage tanks are full of russian oil.

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