Lesson from Ukraine war: India cannot afford to allow domestic fissiparous tendencies to weaken country

Ukraine is a wake-up call for India. It is in everyone’s interest for India to settle disputes with China and Pakistan and promote regional trade and commerce for peace and stability

Visuals from Ukraine
Visuals from Ukraine

Herald View

The war in Ukraine is a reminder of how dangerous the world is, how fragile the peace and how suddenly our world can turn upside down. It is also a reminder that the world is driven by deep distrust and insecurity; that while the world may boast of many strong leaders, it is actually woefully short of statesmen.

The war has also come as a stark reminder that our world is adrift with no certainties; that the idea of a global village is really a myth, that every country must fend for itself. It has also signaled the failure of communication, of diplomacy, of the United Nations as a peace keeping institution.

Most wars are justified with the statement that ‘it was a hard decision to take but there was no option left’. The Russian President Vladimir Putin last week said something similar to justify the invasion of Ukraine.

While there was horror over a superpower invading a sovereign country in a bid to dislodge its elected government, Russia was right in pointing out that the West, particularly the US, was no saint and guilty of much worse. ‘Regime change’ as a policy after all has been pursued by the US as a legitimate goal for a long time.

But while it was indeed ‘whataboutery’, a delightful word coined to justify embarrassing decisions, Moscow did have ‘legitimate security concerns’ about NATO’s expansion since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The end of the cold war and a distinctly weakened Russia was not, followed by a more pacifist Europe as the military alliance expanded from membership of 16 countries in 1991 to 30 countries today.

Attempts by Ukraine to join NATO and the European Union were therefore like a red rag to Russia, which could not have relished the idea of having NATO military bases and missiles stationed in the east of Ukraine, 300 kilometers from Moscow.

At the same time, NATO and much of Europe seemed anxious about Russian missiles stationed on Ukraine’s western border, barely 300 kilometers from their own capitals.

To make it even more complicated, the heroic resistance by Ukrainians leaves no doubt about their desire to remain independent of Moscow.

Russia’s war on Ukraine has also served as a reminder of the virtues of nonalignment. Not only has India fallen back on non-alignment to explain its refusal to condemn the Russian invasion, a non-aligned Ukraine would appear to be the ideal solution on paper.

Although negotiations should have proceeded on those lines, the invasion, the resistance and Ukraine’s emergency application for membership of the European Union have complicated the situation. While shared responsibility in a global village has turned out to be a myth, an integrated world is a reality.

Therefore, although India had no role in creating the mess in Ukraine, it cannot unfortunately escape the consequences. Ukraine is also a wake-up call for India to walk the talk and start a dialogue with neighbours to ensure that Ukraine is not repeated here.

It was Mahatma Gandhi who asked, “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

Nothing can justify wars which are easy to start, difficult to control and even more difficult to end. It is in everyone’s interest for India to settle disputes with China and Pakistan and promote regional trade and commerce for peace and stability. It will be fatal not to learn lessons from Ukraine.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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