New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Monday underscores India’s “rising stature” on the global stage despite the recent criticism over New Delhi’s energy exports from Moscow, say experts.
Modi spoke to Zelenskyy about the ongoing war. During the phone call, the Ukrainian leader sought India’s help, as G20 chair, to implement his 10-point “peace formula” and bring an end to the Ukraine war. A week prior, the prime minister had held a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
These were Modi’s first calls with Putin and Zelenskyy since India assumed the G20 presidency on 1 December.
The call with Zelenskyy also comes three weeks after Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba told Indian news channel NDTV in an interview that it was “morally inappropriate” for New Delhi to explain its purchases of oil from Russia by saying Europe was doing the same.
First presented at the G20 Summit in Bali in November, Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace formula covers issues ranging from food and energy security to calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops, cessation of hostilities, and punishing those responsible for war crimes.
Some experts, however, are sceptical about whether India can help implement the crux of the 10-point peace formula.
“As chair of the G20, India may be able to push the discussions about global food and energy security in certain directions. But the crux of the 10-point formula— withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territories — is not up to India,” former diplomat Vijay Nambiar told ThePrint.
‘Diplomatic sweet spot’
Experts say that while India has enjoyed the goodwill of both Russia and the West since the Ukraine war broke out in February this year, this “diplomatic sweet spot” has become more pronounced with the G20 presidency.
According to former diplomat Rajiv Bhatia, a distinguished fellow at the Mumbai-based foreign policy think-tank Gateway House, “The call between Zelenskyy and Modi is significant because Modi no longer speaks as just the leader of India but the leader of the G20. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had also said that as G20 president, India seeks to be the ‘voice of the Global South’.”
Ummu Bava, a professor and Jean Monnet Chair at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for European Studies, said Zelenskyy’s call was an acknowledgment of India’s unique position in the world order despite criticism of its energy imports from Russia.
“Despite the Ukrainian foreign minister’s recent remarks about India playing a role in the ‘suffering’ of his country, the Ukrainian leadership cannot ignore the diplomatic sweet spot that India has found itself in,” she said. “Even if criticism against India’s energy imports from Russia continues, New Delhi will be able to tide over it precisely because of this diplomatic sweet spot, and (also) as the G20 host.”
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)