Peace summit at top of Ukrainian foreign minister’s agenda on Delhi visit | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Peace summit at top of Ukrainian foreign minister’s agenda on Delhi visit

Mar 26, 2024 07:16 PM IST

This will be Dmytro Kuleba’s first trip to India since he became foreign minister in 2020 and the first since the start of the conflict in 2022

NEW DELHI: Ukraine is sending foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba to New Delhi as part of efforts to garner India’s support for a peace summit to be held this summer though the Indian side is yet to take a call on the level of its participation, people familiar with the matter said.

Kuleba will hold his substantial meetings in New Delhi on March 28. (Dmytro Kuleba | Official X account)
Kuleba will hold his substantial meetings in New Delhi on March 28. (Dmytro Kuleba | Official X account)

Ahead of his arrival in the Indian capital for the two-day visit beginning on Wednesday, Kuleba invoked Mahatma Gandhi while seeking India’s support for Ukraine’s fight for “freedom and independence”.

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Though India has refrained from publicly criticising Russia’s invasion, Kuleba said his visit will strengthen ties between India and Ukraine.

This will be Kuleba’s first trip to India since he became foreign minister in 2020 and the first since the start of the conflict in 2022. He is set to co-chair a meeting of the bilateral inter-governmental commission with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.

In a video message recorded in front of Gandhi’s statue in Kyiv, Kuleba said: “Ukraine and India are two big democracies. I am certain we are set to be good partners and friends.”

Noting Gandhi’s persistance in the face of widespread opposition, Kuleba sought to draw a comparison with Ukraine’s stance.

He said, “According to Gandhi, ‘the future depends on what we do in the present’. Hence, supporting Ukraine today means supporting freedom and independence, supporting the legacy of the great Mahatma.”

Kuleba will hold his substantial meetings in New Delhi on March 28 following Jaishankar’s return from a Southeast Asian tour that ends on Wednesday.

Kuleba is also expected to meet senior officials and interact with experts and think tanks.

Kuleba’s agenda is expected to be topped by the peace summit that neutral Switzerland will host in summer. The summit, for which no dates have been announced so far, will build on Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace formula unveiled in 2022.

This formula envisages restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, withdrawal of Russian troops, formal confirmation of the end of war, release of all prisoners, and radiation and nuclear safety, especially in the context of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The people said New Delhi is yet to decide on the level of its participation in the peace summit. With India set to hold its general election in seven phases between April 19 and June 1, there is a question mark on India’s participation at the highest level if the peace summit is held during this period, they said.

“It still isn’t clear which countries will participate or if Russia will be part of the summit,” one of the people said.

Also Read: Over 20 Indians in Russia-Ukraine conflict zone: MoS Muraleedharan

Since last year, four meetings of security officials and political advisors of dozens of countries have been held on Zelenskyy’s peace formula, and India has sent middle-ranking diplomats or the deputy national security adviser to most of these meets. National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval was the senior-most Indian official to participate in these meetings when he addressed a gathering hosted by Saudi Arabia last August.

At the time, Doval reiterated India’s position that dialogue and diplomacy are the only way forward in the Ukraine crisis and New Delhi will be an active partner to find a lasting solution. Doval cautioned that while several peace formulas had been proposed, none is “acceptable to both sides” and the key question is whether a solution acceptable to all stakeholders can be found.

Ummu Salma Bava, professor of European studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said Switzerland is trying to play the honest broker amid a divided attention span in Europe. “Anything that gets some movement is the first step, but it will be a difficult place to start if the 10-point peace formula is the base,” she said.

Noting that Ukraine’s tough talk on India’s stance on the conflict has mellowed in recent months, Bava said India is one of the few countries with a line of communication with Russia at a time when others have burnt their bridges.

Sameer Patil, senior fellow with the Observer Research Foundation, said India is in the unique position of acting as a bridge between the antagonists to try and secure a deal though it will be difficult to get a commitment from both sides. “The fact that India was able to forge a consensus at last year’s G20 Summit despite the polarisation has boosted its credentials,” he said.

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