Growing speculation about India’s peacemaking role in Ukraine

India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra meets United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Washington November 7, 2022. At left are Vani Rao, Additional Secretary (Americas), Ministry of External Affairs, and India’s Ambassador to US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu. (Photo Source: Sherman’s Twitter)

Amid speculation in the U.S. about India’s peacemaking role in Ukraine, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar was in Moscow for meetings with Russian officials while Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra was holding talks with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Washington.

The long-drawn Ukraine conflict figured in the Washington talks on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, and Sherman “underscored the US commitment to the people of Ukraine in the face of Russia’s illegal war of aggression” in her meeting with Kwatra, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a readout of their meeting.

Jaishankar arrived in Moscow on Monday and was scheduled to meet with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov, who holds the foreign trade portfolio.

There has been speculation in influential US media that India may be able to play a role in ending the war in Ukraine as it “is increasingly viewed as a potential peacemaker with access to both sides”.

The New York Times, which often has an insight into US government thinking, referred to Jaishankar’s Moscow trip and reported on Sunday, “Diplomats and foreign-policy experts are watching closely to see if India can use its unique leverage as one of the world’s largest countries that is a friend to both East and West to press Russia to end its war in Ukraine”.

The newspaper said that there was “widespread belief” that if there was a stalemate in the fighting or if the energy crisis hit Europe hard, a ceasefire or a negotiated settlement could become possible.

“That could open up a role for an enterprising neutral country or some small group of them to try to broker peace”, it said.

“Officials within the Indian government have already been discussing what role India might play in peacemaking efforts when the time is right”, the paper added.

The Times also said that diplomats, whom it did not identify, have floated “a joint mediation effort led by India, Israel and the United Arab Emirates”.

“Peacemaking could carve a more prominent place for India in the global order and possibly bring it closer to a long-sought prize of a fairer power distribution — a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council”, the paper said.

Unusually, the Times article did not include the newspaper’s standard criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “Hindu nationalist” or authoritarian and marked a turnaround from a critical story a day earlier that had accused Modi of being part of “a handful of powerful world leaders rallied around Russia and undercut global cooperation” against climate change.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is scheduled to visit India for the US-India Economic and Financial Partnership meeting on Thursday, Nov. 10. These meetings are taking place ahead of the G20 summit in Bali at which India will assume the presidency of the group of major developed and emerging economies.

(By special arrangement with South Asia Monitor)



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