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Samarkand Summit: MODI NUDGES PUTIN, By Dr D. K. Giri, 24 September 2022 Print E-mail


Round The World

New Delhi, 23 September 2022

Samarkand Summit


By Dr D. K. Giri

(Prof. International Politics, JIMMC)

A Swedish friend said to me yesterday in a discussion in Stockholm that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was critical of Russianleader Vladimir Putin onthe 7-month-old war in Ukraine. I was a bit surprisedbut elated. Modi government has been restrained in naming Russia for India’s historic ties with the country. Many friendly countries in the world were uncomfortable with India’ssilence at the violation of the UN charter. People opposing Putin were worried that if Putin was not stopped in his tracks in Ukraine, it could lend credence to other belligerentautocrats like Xi Jinping to invade Taiwan and South China Sea etc. So, many eyes were on India that is caught in border disputes with China as Beijing makes incredible claims.

What did Modi say exactly which echoed across the world? The Western press, mainly American is full of appreciative reactions and the French President Macron made an open endorsement of Modi in a speech.Modi told Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, “I know that today’s era is not an era of war, and I have spoken to you on the phone about this”. Disapproving Putin’s war on Ukraine, Modi added that democracy, diplomacy and dialogue keep the world together. He emphasised that food, fertiliser and fuel security were among the major concerns of the world at present.

According to international observers including those covering the event, Putin was visibly embarrassed. He was put on the defensive. He, however, said, that he understood Modi’s concerns about the Ukraine war. “I know about your position on the conflict in Ukraine, and I know about your concerns. We want all of this to end as soon as possible.”The last bit could be interpreted both ways. Either Putin would go for a negotiated settlement and withdraw the Russiantroops from the Ukrainian territories or he would mobilise the army massively to crush Ukraine. The political analysts would argue both ways although we will know soon what he really meant by watching his actions on the battle field.

The intensification of war by Putin seems alarmingly more plausible if you read closely his latter part of the statement. He blamed Ukraine for the war. He said that Ukraine did not want negotiation, they wanted to settle things on the battlefield. Those words may not correspondto the factual position, but they do indicate that Putin may be preparing for a bigger and decisive battle with Ukraine. It would be great for Modi, for India and the world peace if he follows up with Putin and pro-actively broker a peace agreement between the two warring countries to end the war. Having said what he said to Putin, Modi has broken a new ground for taking it to desperately desired solution.

Prime Minister Modi’s position in this direct talk with Putin merits a thorough study of India’s shifting stand in its foreign policy. From non-alignment, to a pro-Soviet tilt, to multi-alignment, and now to distancing from Russia is a dramatic and radical departure which will influence India’s role in the international politics. It will also assuage the anxieties of the western powers--America, Europe, Quad about India not taking a clear stand to be a part of ‘coalition of democracies’. At any rate, Modi’s stand on Ukraine is a welcome step which will eventually do good to India’s security and development.

The SCO met for its 22nd annual summit in Samarkand under the chairmanship of Uzbekistan. The rotational headship of SCO came to India. New Delhi will host the next Summit in 2023.The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the Presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Over the years, it has emerged as one of the largest trans-regional international organisations. India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017. In Samarkand, the observer countries were Belarus, Iran and Mongolia, and the special guests were Azerbaijan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.

What are the takeaways from this Summit? To put them in a nutshell, the upsideswere, in multilateral terms, the focus on terrorism, climate change and a treaty on Good Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation. India was asked to chair a joint working group on innovation start-ups. This opportunity would perhaps have come India’s way after Modi’s powerful presentation of the Indian economy. He said,‘We are focussing on a people-centric development model. We are supporting innovation in every sector. Today there are more than 70,000 start-ups and over 100 unicorns in our country.’He addedthat “India’s economy is expected to grow at the rate of 7.5% this year. I'm glad that ours is one of the fastest growing economies among the largest economies of the world.”Varanasi was declared as the Tourist and Cultural Capital of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in 2022-2023.

Bilaterally, as said before, Modi met Putin and had discussion on trade, energy, and politics. He discussed Chabahar and Energy issues with Iran’sPresident Ebrahim Raisi. Given the tension between India and Turkey, Modi’s meeting with President Erdogan was refreshing. They talked trade and tourism. Also, the host of the Summit Uzbekistan discussed trade, IT and connectivity through Chabahar.

But the downsides with the SCO are more than the gains which perhaps make India’s engagement with the regional bloc infructuous. India’s multi-alignment, including with antagonistic and autocratic powers, does not enhance India’s image as the largest democracy. New Delhi dealing with the countries sanctioned by other powers -- Russia, Iran, Belarus, and China may be problematic in the future. The inbuilt and irreconciled rivalries among participating countries -- India and China, India and Pakistan do not create confidence.

There are only talks in the summit but no actin on the ground. The leaders do not ‘walk the talk’. For example, on the day of the Summit, China blocked, once again the proposal to designate 26/11 suspect Sajid Mir as terrorist. Beijing also blocked India and the US moves to designate Rauf Asghar and Abdur Rahman Makki. While the optimists or the apologists of status quo would argue that the political difference, territorial boundaries and other conflicting issues could not be resolved in any one summit or grouping, and therefore, persistent G-to-G contacts backed by people-to-people ties could revive the spirit and power of common geo-politics based on shard boundaries etc.

However, the SCO summits led largely by autocratic leaders who do not really represent their citizens’ minds and moods could not yield much dividends unless the leaders maintain integrity, abide by international rules and respect other countries’ sovereignty. New Delhi will have to eventually take this call as it has done with the Belt and Road project of China. All SCO members reaffirmed it in Samarkand except India. Since New Delhi stands isolated, what future SCO holds for India! ---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)









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