India balanced in the management of the Ukrainian crisis: Jaishankar | Latest India News

India has struck a balance between calling for an immediate end to hostilities in Ukraine and protecting the country’s interests in the face of fuel and food shortages, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday.

Greater integration within South Asia can only happen if India takes the lead, Jaishankar said during a discussion of the book “[email protected]: Dreams meet delivery” at the University of Delhi. Other countries in the region are looking to India to take the lead and put in place the necessary resources, he added.

Comparing what is happening in Ukraine to situations in the Mahabharata that show life is complex and not all choices are black and white, he said India had taken the ‘right way’ from the start of the crisis in February. “The most pressing issue…is to prevent hostilities from escalating to a level where they only do harm,” he said.

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Like Lord Krishna, India has done everything to prevent war and advocate a return to dialogue and diplomacy, he said. India must manage its historical and strategic interests at stake, as well as larger issues arising from the Ukraine crisis, such as fuel, food and fertilizer shortages, he added.

Jaishankar said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s determination not to allow cross-border terrorism to normalize has helped shape India’s Pakistani policy since 2014. This determination has shaped our policy in Pakistan since 2014,” he added.

“When the (global citizen) is very deeply affected by what happens in a conflict, then the most wise (and) sober voices must speak out,” he said. At the same time, India must do what it must do to protect its interests, he added.

Responding to a question on South Asia, Jaishankar said that India pays a lot of attention to the region as almost all the countries in the neighborhood have a border with India, which is the biggest economy and political, and also the most connected.

“I believe, and I know it is the Prime Minister’s very strong conviction, that the initiative (and) the responsibility to really create a region in South Asia lies largely with us. If we take the initiative, if we push it, it will happen. If we don’t, it won’t happen. Obviously we need the others, that goes without saying,” he said.

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Other South Asian countries are looking to India “to step up” and to “put the resources in place”, he said. India’s Neighborhood First policy aims to treat the region differently. “Don’t be reciprocal, you’re the greatest, you should be the big-hearted guy, you should be generous,” he said.

As part of efforts to overcome the damage caused by partition, India is focusing on boosting connectivity through roads, bridges, tunnels, waterways and power links. Noting that India had come forward to help Sri Lanka cope with an economic crisis, he said India was now seen as a “rising tide capable of lifting the whole neighborhood”.

“We are among the least connected regions in the world and we are losing out because of it. The Prime Minister is absolutely committed to transforming this and he places it very high in his priorities,” Jaishankar said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to change India’s image and engage with leaders of West Asian countries have helped weather the fallout from controversial remarks about the Prophet Muhammad by two former government spokespersons. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he said.

“When we claimed that what was said did not reflect the views of the party…and a lot of (the countries) spoke about it with the ambassadors (and) the ambassadors pointed that out. I think they accepted that,” he said. Many West Asians said that ‘we regret what was said and we also noted what…the BJP clarified’,” he added.

Christi C. Elwood