Modi urges Putin to put an end to the violence; Biden states that the US is in talks with India

As a stunned world watched Russia’s attack on Ukraine unfold and prominent US and European leaders condemned the invasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Russian President Vladimir Putin and “appealed for an immediate cessation of violence.”

This sends a strong message to the Western bloc, which has been pressuring India to condemn Russia’s action. US Vice President Joe Biden described the attack as a “unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces,” while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described it as “barbaric,” adding that Putin’s hands were stained with Ukraine’s blood.

Putin briefed Modi about recent developments in Ukraine

Putin “briefed Modi on recent developments in Ukraine,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office. “The Prime Minister reaffirmed his long-held conviction that the differences between Russia and NATO can be resolved only through candid and sincere dialogue. The Prime Minister urged an immediate halt to violence and urged all parties to make concerted efforts to return to the path of diplomatic negotiations and dialogue,” the PMO said.

Following the call, when asked by PTI whether India and the US were on the same page on the issue, US Vice President Joe Biden stated that “we are in consultations (with India) today; we have not resolved that yet.” Notably, India is framing the conflict for the first time as one between Russia and what it refers to as the “NATO group,” rather than just between Russia and Ukraine.

Putin “outlined the fundamental assessments of Kiev’s aggressive actions against the civilian population of Donbass” and years of a “destructive policy” aimed at violating the Minsk agreements, the Kremlin said in a statement late Thursday night. Modi expressed gratitude to Putin for the “clarification” and requested assistance in ensuring the security of Indian citizens in Ukraine, according to the statement. According to the statement, the Russian President stated that “necessary instructions” would be issued.

India called for immediate cessation of violence

While India has long argued for diplomacy, its call for a “immediate cessation of violence” sends a message to the West that Delhi is opposed to war. According to sources, the fact that the “call” and “appeal” for “cessation of violence” were made to Putin first, rather than a Western leader, indicates that Russia initiated the war and that it is up to Putin to find a way out. This has also been the position of the Western bloc, which is led by the US.

The Prime Minister’s call came after he presided over a Cabinet Committee on Security meeting attended by senior ministers including Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Modi expressed concern during his meeting with Putin about the safety of Indian citizens in Ukraine, particularly students, and “demonstrated that India places the highest priority on their safe exit and return to India.”

According to the PMO statement, the leaders agreed that their officials and diplomatic teams would maintain regular contact on issues of mutual interest. India had thus far waited and observed. However, with the Prime Minister’s phone call to Putin, it has signalled to both sides its intention to cool the situation. Additionally, Jaishankar spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and is expected to speak with his Ukrainian counterpart.

Prior to the call, New Delhi’s sole statement came at 8.36 a.m. (IST) Thursday, around the time the attacks began, in which it expressed “regret” – a step up from “concern” but short of condemnation. India is also under pressure to take a more assertive stance at the United Nations Security Council, which is currently debating a draught resolution submitted by the Western bloc.

While there is concern about Russia’s “muscle-flexing” and external meddling in domestic affairs, New Delhi does not wish to jeopardise its close military ties with Moscow. India’s top UN diplomat expressed “regret” and warned that the “situation is in danger of spiralling into a major crisis” as he read from a prepared script. According to AFP, explosions were heard minutes later in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and the eastern port city of Mariupol.

T S Tirumurti, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, stated during the UNSC meeting: “However, we regret that the international community’s calls to give time to recent initiatives undertaken by parties to defuse tensions were not heeded. The situation is on the verge of devolving into a serious crisis. We express our grave concern about recent developments, which, if not handled carefully, could jeopardise the region’s peace and security.”

He urged “immediate de-escalation and abstinence from any further action that could exacerbate the situation.”

The West interprets this statement as condoning Russia’s actions and applying double standards in light of India’s reference to China’s “territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

India’s strategic ties with Russia and its reliance on Russian military hardware – 60–70% of India’s military hardware is Russian-made – are critical at a time when India is embroiled in a border standoff with China.

T S Tirumurti, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, stated during the UNSC meeting: “However, we regret that the international community’s calls to give time to recent initiatives undertaken by parties to defuse tensions were not heeded. The situation is on the verge of devolving into a serious crisis. We express our grave concern about recent developments, which, if not handled carefully, could jeopardise the region’s peace and security.” 

He urged “immediate de-escalation and abstinence from any further action that could exacerbate the situation.” The West interprets this statement as condoning Russia’s actions and applying double standards in light of India’s reference to China’s “territorial integrity and sovereignty.” India’s strategic ties with Russia and its reliance on military supplies – between 60 and 70% of India’s military hardware is Russian-made – are critical at a time when India is embroiled in a border standoff with China.    

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