Ukraine-Russia war: Could India become a broker for peace?

By Jeffrey Gettleman, and Mujib Mashal | The New York Times

In July, when a critical deal was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to free up millions of pounds of desperately needed Ukrainian grain, India played an important behind-the-scenes role in helping sell the plan to Russia, which had been blockading the grain ships.

Two months later, when Russian forces were shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, leaving the world anxious about a nuclear catastrophe, India stepped in again and asked Russia to back off.

Throughout the Ukraine war, India has quietly assisted during a few pivotal moments such as these. This week, India’s foreign minister is traveling to Moscow for meetings with Russian officials on economic and political issues. Diplomats and foreign-policy experts are watching closely to see if India can use its unique leverage as one of the world’s largest countries that is a friend to both East and West to press Russia to end its war in Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine are far from negotiating with each other; Ukraine feels it has momentum on the battlefield and is in no mood to talk, and Russia is hardly relenting either. But the widespread belief is that if the fighting reaches a stalemate, and the energy crisis makes life really miserable in Ukraine and across Europe this winter, the prospect of a negotiated settlement or at least a cease-fire may arise.

India’s leader, Narendra Modi, seems to enjoy a good rapport with Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, with whom he shares certain strongman characteristics.

Modi

But the Ukraine crisis and the escalating tensions between Russia and the West are testing India’s tightrope act. It continues to buy Russian oil, lots of it, which angers Ukraine and the United States. And it has refused to support resolutions at the United Nations that have condemned Russia’s aggression.

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