NEW DELHI: Even as Ukraine is grappling with the fall-out of the Malaysian Airlines crash, Kiev wants the direct ear of New Delhi, hoping to nuance India’s broad-based support for Russia.
“We have an intention to establish hotlines between the Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of the two countries,” Ukraine’s Ambassador to India, Oleksandr Shevchenko told Express on Monday. The move is a direct consequence of the Malaysian Airlines crash on July 17, which refocused the international spotlight on the Central Asian country and the intensifying civil strife in its Eastern part.
With the world reacting in horror, there had been a build-up of circumstantial evidence by Western countries, which pointed the finger at Russian-backed rebels for launching the surface-to-air missile that brought down the plane and killed its 295 passengers and crew.
While the West, especially the US, has been accusing Russia, there has not been a similar outcry against Russia from other parts of the world, especially Asia-- beyond condemnation of the tragic accident. With a hotline in place, Ukraine intends to increase the diplomatic outreach especially with the countries, who have traditionally been “sympathetic” to Kremlin.
Shevchenko said that the hotlines will be “used for delivering urgent messages which may normally have gone through diplomatic channels”.
“We are very much interested in the position of India, which is an influential country,” said the Ukrainian envoy, who has been posted here since 2010.
In the context of India’s influence, he recalled that Russian President Vladimir Putin had thanked India (along with China), in his address to Russian Parliament on March 18. Putin had appreciated India’s “restraint and objectivity” on the Crimea issue.
The same day, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a telephonic talk with Putin. This time, he talked of India’s “consistent” position on issues of “unity and territorial integrity” and the need for “political and diplomatic solutions” to protect the “legitimate interests of all countries in the region”. Ukraine had noted the statement, but wants the reference to territorial integrity to be more specific. “India can do more. The language can be more explicit,” said Shevchenko, asserting that it has a direct relevance for New Delhi.
Interestingly, the Ukrainian Ambassador believes that it was India’s influence which led to a more “balanced” statement from the recent BRICS Summit in Brazil. “We were concerned before the summit about Russia pushing for a stronger line. But, thanks to Indian delegation, the statement was rather balanced,” he said. India has so far referred to the Malaysian Airlines crash only through the condolence letters of PM Narendra Modi to his Malaysian and Dutch counterparts. Modi had said that there was “justifiable outrage” around the plane crash and supported “efforts for an investigation that can help establish the exact circumstances”. Sources indicated that India’s isn’t likely to be a stand-alone statement on the plane crash, till the probe is over, if at all. “We have been listening to Ukraine’s point of view. But so far, our position remains the same as earlier one,” said a senior official.