By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, March 4, 2022: Diplomacy failed and war has started. Russia’s ‘military operations’ in Ukraine has begun. In the last one week of hostilities, there are heavy casualties. Civilians and soldiers have died. Properties are getting destroyed. Refugee number is increasing with unimaginable hardship for those who have been displaced from their homes and hearths flooding into the neighbouring countries.

Many affected people are not Ukrainians. They had been to Ukraine for studies and business. In addition, the effect of war and sanctions on Russia have already pushed up oil and gas prices which have its indirect effects on prices of other commodities including food items.The global economy already gravely damaged by pandemic has another rude shock.

War has diverted the world attention from the pandemic, which is yet to be fully subdued, and from the urgent priority relating to climate change for long-term interest of the planet and new and unborn generation.What consequences will follow by this war it is difficult to predict.

This is basically a man-made human disaster caused by revival of ultra-nationalism which incidentally is on rise in the world, and inability to reconcile to modern reality.

Undoubtedly the world public opinion is against Putin’s unilateral and unprovoked belligerency. Among the United Nations Russia is getting isolated with passage of time. Even a traditional neutral country Switzerland has imposed punitive sanctions including on the diplomatic personnel of Russia.

Putin should be aware of what happened to Brezhnev’s intervention in Afghanistan and how it ultimately led to the dismemberment of USSR. Longer the war continues it would drain financial and military strength of Putin’s Russia. USA and the West must understand that Russia is also not Iraq of 1991 or of 2003. Surely Kremlin knows Ukraine is also not Chechnya, Georgia, or Crimea.

All peace-loving people would like the immediate cessation of hostilities. The media reports indicate that negotiation has commenced between Russia and Ukraine in Belarus without any tangible results to the knowledge of people of the world.All countries would wish the war does not escalate into a full-scale European war and then become a world war .With Russia putting its nuclear stockpile in high alert, one wonders what is in store.

Immediate ceasefire is possible if, not only Russia and Ukraine agree on one side but also supported and encouraged by USA and other NATO members on the other side.

This is not a war only between Russia and Ukraine, it is a hostile confrontation between Russia and NATO powers as a sequel to the long-standing frustration of most of the Russians and not only that of Putin after the dissolution the Soviet Union with inability to reconcile with modern reality. Dismemberment of Georgia with creation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and annexation of Crimea are the result of the obsession with historic past.

The leadership role in NATO is with USA.In other words,from the side of West, Biden has a major task while he is subject to influence of other Western leaders, world public opinion and most importantly that of the American people. From Russia’s side it is Putin alone will have to decide.

Ceasefire is possible if the diplomacy begins soon thereafter. During the interregnum Russia must not bolster its advantages like sending more troops and armaments to the hostile zone and Ukraine should not receive foreign armed support either through weapons or volunteers. All major leaders involved in this confrontation must cease resorting to hyperbolic bellicosity. Sanctions must be suspended. UN could have been the best organization to mediate.

Since the Secretary General of UN is not likely to be acceptable to the Kremlin because of his premature but bold and frank statement calling Russia an invader which has displeased Putin an alternative has to be found.

Three countries of UN who have taken non-committal stand are India, China, and UAE. India and China both have been traditional friends of Russia. India’s relationship with USA and the West have improved since the end of Cold War. China ‘s political and economic relationship with Russia have been strengthened since last two decades with increasing interdependence.

China’s trade with Ukraine has been robust.While China is in a better position to mediate with Russia, its relationship with US declined since pandemic,the Trump engineered trade war and new tension on Taiwan ,on the contrary India continues to have friendly relationship with Russia and maintains cordiality with US and West. Both can together play a mediating role, provided both agree to bury their hatchet for the time-being in the interest of world peace.

This is an unique opportunity for two Asian powers to broker a peace in Europe which is now localised before it becomes an European war and then a global conflagration with emotions and tempers running high in Europe.

Initiative can be taken by Modi who has gathered experience overtime in international relations to show his statesmanship by talking first to Xi notwithstanding the Sino-Indian tension ,and thereafter with Putin and Biden for taking a mediation role.Joint effort would have confidence of both parties. This effort is necessary in the interest of saving the world of a major conflict. Biden should also demonstrate his wisdom for giving peace a chance.

Negotiation can be around the security concern of Russia, independence of Ukraine, and autonomy of the Russian speaking eastern region,non-nuclear proliferation in the proximity of Russia,guaranteed neutrality of Ukraine, rebuilding of Ukraine with assistance of the Western powers and Russia, deployment of UN peacekeeping forces drawn from India, China, Brazil and South Africa around the hostile area to serve as a buffer zone between the warring parties.

The neutrality of a country is not new to the European continent.Switzerland more than two centuries ago was neutralized by agreement of European powers and Austria also became neutral during cold war brokered by India’s legendary Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru when Soviet troops withdrew and became a buffer between members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

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