New Delhi: Germany would have liked to have India on its side, clearly opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but Berlin understands New Delhi’s “challenges and constraints”, German National Security Adviser Jens Plötner said Wednesday.
Plötner made the comments as he arrived in New Delhi for a 12-hour visit to meet his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval, in a bid to “learn more” about India’s position. The move came as India witnesses a rush of high-level visits from Europe amid the deepening Russia-Ukraine conflict. India continues to bat for diplomacy and dialogue as a solution.
Plötner, whose visit was kept confidential until the last moment, also met External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla before his departure.
During an interaction with a select group of reporters before his meeting with Doval, Plötner was asked about the issue of India abstaining from a series of UN resolutions meant to punish Russia over the Ukraine war.
“We would have welcomed to have India in our camp. This having been said, everybody has his own geography, everybody has his own geopolitical setting in which it must evolve,” said Plötner, the foreign and security policy adviser to the German Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “You (India) live in a complicated neighbourhood. You have challenges and constraints of your own,” he added.
According to top-level Indian security sources, the visit of the German adviser came at a time “when several other high level foreign dignitaries are visiting India for consultations on ongoing bilateral, regional and multilateral issues”.
The sources said NSA Doval informed Plötner about India’s “consistent approach for the peaceful settlement of disputes” while discussing the Ukraine war, and said New Delhi’s approach is in accordance with international law and commitment to the UN Charter and the principles of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states.
“Good to see Foreign and Security Policy Advisor to German Chancellor Jens Plötner this afternoon. Understandably, our conversation focused around the Ukraine situation,” Jaishankar said in a tweet.
Good to see Foreign and Security Policy Advisor to German Chancellor Jens Plötner this afternoon.
Understandably, our conversation focused around the Ukraine situation. pic.twitter.com/fIkyC4YTSQ
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) March 30, 2022
With Foreign Secretary Shringla, Plötner discussed the strategic partnership between India and Germany.
They held wide ranging discussions on the 🇮🇳🇩🇪 strategic partnership, and exchanged views on global & regional issues of mutual interest. pic.twitter.com/U7QL6eVh23
— Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) March 30, 2022
Speaking to reporters, Plötner hinted at the fact that the Ukraine war is likely to have consequences for the Indo-Pacific region at large.
“Indo-Pacific is your (India’s) region … I would like to better understand how India sees the implications (of Russia-Ukraine war) for security & stability in this (Indo-Pacific) region. So I will be more in a listening mode,” he added.
In January 2022, German frigate ‘Bayern’ arrived in Indian waters in a major show of strength between the two Indo-Pacific partners.
The German NSA also said the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming visit to India is “useful” in having a dialogue.
‘Gaining a better understanding’
Plötner’s meeting with NSA Doval was mostly aimed at “gaining a better, common understanding about the geopolitical consequences of the Russian attack on Ukraine”.
“The goal of my talks here is to listen and learn more about the view you here in India have on the conflict which is high on our agenda, the war in Ukraine, how do you see the situation and what analysis do you have of the developments,” Plötner said.
“But obviously we want to share our view, which is a quite specific view because of the geographic proximity of Ukraine to Germany and because of our track record of being involved through the so-called Normandy format and the Minsk negotiations, being involved for over eight years in the attempt to diffuse the conflict between Russia and Ukraine so we are particularly called upon in this situation,” he said.
The war, which has now gone on for over a month, has resulted in a massive refugee crisis in Germany, Plötner highlighted.
“Berlin is full of Ukrainian refugees, the train stations are full, everyday around 10,000-15,000 Ukrainians are arriving,” he said. “It is a major geopolitical challenge but it also boils down to some amount of human dimension when you speak about this crisis from Berlin.”
‘Obvious, blatant breach of international norms’
The German NSA also said Russia’s action on Ukraine is “an obvious and blatant breach of all international norms” and it is an “open-ended question how all of these will end”.
According to him, it was not Ukraine that provoked the attack, and “if this goes unchecked” then the consequences will spill over the borders of Ukraine.
Stressing the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reasoning that Ukraine originally belonged to the Soviet Union, Plötner said: “If we start looking back into the history books and then choosing the geography that’s suitable for our country, then I think we are in for quite a period of turmoil, if every country decides to turn back the clock of time.”
“This is why beyond Europe what is happening in Ukraine must send alarm bells ringing through all capitals of countries which believe in the international rule of law, which believe in international order and there we feel very close to India. We feel we have the same genes when it comes to how we see states living together,” he added.
Plötner told reporters that he spoke to NSA Doval about the “consequences of the war” not just in Europe but also in the rest of the world and “what lessons do we need to learn”.
“We don’t want the big ones to be encouraged because something like this goes unchecked and we don’t want the smaller countries to feel that they need to live in fear because any big one can just decide (to) turn back time on history and geography and decide that this country has not right to exist as such,” he said.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)