Ukraine invasion: Macron and US cite Modi’s ‘not era of war’ remark to Putin

Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Russian President Vladimir Putin that “today’s era is not of war”, French President Emmanuel Macron and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan cited this remark urging Putin to end the war. Macron also said those countries which have chosen to be “neutral” and “non-aligned” are “mistaken” and have a historical responsibility to speak out.

The French President posed a question to member countries that if something similar happens to them by a more powerful neighbour, nobody would want that regional countries and the world be silent.

Macron, delivering his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, said: “Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, was right when he said the time is not for war. It is not for revenge against the West, or for opposing the West against the East. It is the time for a collective time for our sovereign equal states. To cope together with challenges we face.”

Addressing the UNGA, Macron — speaking in French — said that “some countries” at the General Assembly have maintained a form of “neutrality” with regard to this war, but those remain “non-aligned” and refuse to express oneself clearly are “mistaken” and have a “historical responsibility”.

Reminding the member countries, he said that the “fight of the non-aligned” was a “fight for peace” and “fight for sovereignty and territorial integrity of each State”. “This is the fight of the non-aligned”, the French President said.

Underlining that no one can be indifferent to the war in Ukraine, he said, “It is near for the Europeans who have chosen to support Ukraine…It is further away for many of you, but we all have direct consequences and we all have a role to play in ending it because we are all paying the price.”

This war launched by Russia, he said, flouts the principles of international order.

In this regard, not confusing causes and consequences, he said, “Which of you could consider that the day when something similar is done by a more powerful neighbour, the silence of the region and the world would be the best answer?…Nobody. Contemporary imperialism is not European or Western.”

In Washington DC, Sullivan: “I think what Prime Minister Modi said — a statement of principle on behalf of what he believes is right and just — was very much welcomed by the United States.”

All countries should follow the principle that one cannot conquer its neighbour’s territory by force, Sullivan said.

“We would like to see every country in the world making that case,” Sullivan said. “They can do it publicly if they like. They can do it privately if they like. But sending that clear and unmistakable message to Moscow at this time is the most vital thing I think we can collectively do to produce peace in that region.”

On September 16, Modi had met Putin on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Samarkand in Uzbekistan.

At the beginning of the meeting, Modi had told Putin: “I know that today’s era is not of war and we have spoken to you many times on the phone that democracy, diplomacy and dialogue are such things that touch the world. Today we will get a chance to discuss how we can move forward on the path of peace in the coming days. I will also get an opportunity to understand your viewpoint.”

Putin responded to Modi: “I know your position on the conflict in Ukraine, your concerns that you constantly express.”

The Russian President had made similar comments to Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday, saying he understood Beijing’s concerns about the conflict.

The exchange between Putin and Modi has been viewed by the West as a public rebuke by the Prime Minister — who had so far steered clear of any public criticism of the Russian President.

Top government sources sought to nuance this saying that the PM’s framing of the comments should be seen in the context of New Delhi’s position in the last seven months of the war.

A senior government official told The Indian Express on Wednesday: “This was the first time the two leaders were meeting in-person since Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 this year, and this was the most candid public conversation on the war between the two leaders. They have spoken at least four times in the last six months where the Prime Minister has called for cessation of hostilities and advocated the path of diplomacy and dialogue. So, it’s in sync with the Indian position that has been reiterated time and again.”

Asked about the perception that this was a “stern” message from New Delhi to Moscow, another senior official said: “The PM’s remarks were in tune with our stated position…How others interpret it, is not something that we can comment on. Our friends in Moscow understand where we are coming from.”

A senior Russian diplomat told The Indian Express that the Modi-Putin meeting went off “quite well”, and the two sides are working at several levels — political and official — to broaden their ties, including on energy. “We are also working on the rupee-ruble mechanism, with a recent visit of the Russian Sberbank’s Deputy Governor holding discussions with Indian interlocutors in Delhi and Mumbai,” the diplomat said.

India has not criticised the Russian invasion, but has condemned the Bucha massacre in which innocent civilians were killed.

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Modi’s latest statement is being perceived as part of Delhi’s continued diplomatic tightrope walk — as it balances its strategic imperatives vis a vis the West, led by the US on one side, Russia on the other and against the backdrop of a new warmth between Moscow and Beijing.

External Affairs minister S Jaishankar is in the US to meet Foreign ministers from US, Russia, China among others in the next week, and, in fact, he met Macron on the sidelines of the UNGA Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Jaishankar met Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal at the UN headquarters, and tweeted, “Thank[ed] him for sharing his perspectives and assessment of the ongoing conflict. Discussed their consequences, including for food security, energy security and safety of nuclear facilities. Apprised him of India’s principled position that emphasizes cessation of all hostilities and return to dialogue and diplomacy. Assured him that India would continue to provide humanitarian assistance.”

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