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A LOT MORE DESIRED TO END THE WAR

In last two years of Russia - Ukraine war, both sides have suffered huge financial losses and the Ukraine has borne the brunt of war with thousands dead and millions displaced and a huge territorial loss. The European Union NATO membership for Ukraine has become more complicated. In wake of this state in the conflict zone an international peace summit in relation to the Russo-Ukrainian War, formally called the Summit on Peace in Ukraine, was held in Switzerland on 15 - 16 June 2024. The conference followed a series of four earlier international meetings, and was co-hosted by the Swiss president Viola Amherd along with Ukraine. Representatives from 92 nations and 8 international organizations attended the summit, while Russia was not invited. The Joint Communiqué on a Peace Framework became the final statement of the summit and was supported by the majority of participants less some delegates like India and Brazil.

The November 2022 Ukrainian proposal asked for Nuclear safety, Food security for Asian and African countries, Energy security and Restoration of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Release of all prisoners and the return of Ukrainian children deported to Russia, Restoration of the Russia - Ukraine border to that prior to the 2014 annexation of Crimea and Cessation of hostilities, Prosecution of war crimes in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Guarantees against future Russian aggression. This was a tall asking by Ukraine with nothing in return, thus the proposal didn’t cut any ice with Russia. However, the Summit for peace in Ukraine immediately followed the 50th G-7 summit in Fasano, Italy with a hope to make some headway in stopping the prolonged conflict in the region. However, on 14 June, the day before the summit was held; Russian President Vladimir Putin presented a proposal agreeing to cease fire and commencement of negotiations if Ukraine withdraws troops from the territories of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia and officially announce the abandonment of plans to join NATO. Putin also demanded Ukraine’s neutral and non-nuclear status and lifting sanctions against Russia. Zelenskyy responded the same day, stating this was not acceptable.

With this as backdrop the discussions took place in the Summit only on three specific topics - nuclear safety and security; freedom of navigation and food safety; and humanitarian aspects including protection of civilians and prisoner exchange. A total of 100 participants, including 57 heads of state or government including the US Vice President turned up for the Summit. Russia was not invited to the Summit and this was criticised by global south countries, Brazil, India and others. China and Pakistan were invited but did not attend. The three main topics of focus for the summit were nuclear safety and security, freedom of navigation and food safety, and humanitarian aspects. The final statement of the summit, titled the “Joint Communiqué on a Peace Framework” and referring to the “ongoing war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine”, was initially signed by 77 states and 05 international European organisations. Brazil, India, South Africa and Saudi Arabia, 14 other participants in the summit did not sign the Communiqué. Major Global South nations cited Russia’s absence or Israel’s presence as reasons for not accepting the communiqué.

THE JOINT COMMUNIQUÉ

Declared support for United Nations General Assembly resolutions and reaffirmed the signees commitment to refraining from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, the principles of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all states, including Ukraine and the resolution of disputes through peaceful means as principles of international law.

Ukrainian nuclear power plants and installations must operate safely and securely under sovereign control of Ukraine and in line with IAEA principles. Any threat or use of nuclear weapons in the context of the ongoing war against Ukraine is inadmissible.

Attacks on merchant ships in ports and along the entire route, as well as against civilian ports and infrastructure, are unacceptable and that Ukrainian agricultural products should be securely and freely provided to interested third countries.

All prisoners of war must be released and that all children and other Ukrainian civilians who were unlawfully detained, must be returned to Ukraine.

WAY FORWARD

Identify more countries including India with an eye on possible mediators to end the hostilities. The Israel’s counter operations in Gaza to neutralize Hamas has exposed some of the double speak of these countries on civilian deaths.

Address issues like, protection of civilians and prisoner exchange, food security for African and Asian Nations, no use of nuclear weapons etc which are acceptable to both sides and has wider consensus.

India needs to be more pro- active as it has good relations both with Ukraine and Russia and has off late emerged as voice of global south and more acceptable mediator.

Most nations will have to arrive at a similar view on killings of civilians in Ukraine vs Gaza and aiding the conflict with military arms and ammunition for purely defensive reasons.

Work out on restoration of a buffer zone on western flank and play on the factor of reputation of Russia with assurances of non expansion of NATO to threaten Russian interests.

The prolonged war will increase Russian dependence on China and thus China emerges stronger adversary both for the US and India. India must use its clout to bring Russia to table as the US cannot be expected to mediate an issue when it is at odds over the war internally.

The US and Europe will have to convince Kyiv to accept that some Ukrainian land will not be swiftly regained and India, in turn, will have to convince Russia that its broader strategic interests and secure frontiers cannot be attained through military force.

India’s view is that peace in Ukraine requires bringing together all stakeholders and a sincere and practical engagement between the two parties to the conflict. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Putin, this is not an era for war; India needs to do its part to make that statement incontrovertibly true.

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

Col Rajesh Bhukar The writer is a Post Graduate in International Studies, Alumni of Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and College of Combat, Mhow [email protected]

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