As the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches its first anniversary, the war has entered a new phase where more intensive fighting is taking place along with some high-voltage peace diplomacy.
- China has stepped into the arena in an effort to make peace. President Xi is expected to unveil a set of proposals to bring the war to an end.
- Similarly, the US President has travelled to Ukraine for the first time since the Russian invasion and is addressing the “Bucharest Nine”.
- The war has long gone beyond European borders, forcing the UN General Assembly to debate on a resolution to be adopted on a “comprehensive, just, and lasting peace” in Ukraine.
- Bucharest Nine is a group of Central European nations that form NATO’s eastern flank. The group members were either part of the Soviet Union or in the Soviet sphere of influence after World War II.
- Members: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
Potential Role for India in Establishing Peace in Ukraine
- European countries have emphasized on the potential of India in contributing to peacemaking. German and Italian head of states will be visiting India in the upcoming days.
- The question of ending the war in Ukraine will be at the top of their discussions with their Indian counterparts.
- The upcoming gathering of G20 foreign ministers and consultations between the foreign ministers of the Quadrilateral forum in Delhi will also provide the broader international context for an Indian intervention in establishing peace in Ukraine.
- Even though India is aware of its limitations in promoting peace, there are opportunities for making important contributions on the margin. This will be the most significant diplomatic moment for India.
China’s Peace Initiative
- China has recognised the war as an opportunity to emerge as an active shaper of the European security order. It now wants to reposition itself as a peacemaker between Russia and Europe.
- Russia’s weakened position and its growing dependence on China has made this feasible.
- China is already preparing the ground for the launch of President Xi’s peace initiative, in consultations with Germany, France, and Italy as well as Ukraine.
- Reasons for initiative: China enjoys good relations with Ukraine and would not want to sacrifice it on the altar of its special partnership with Russia.
- Beijing is looking to navigate the contradictions between Ukraine and Russia, protect Chinese interests, and expand its strategic influence in Europe.
- Challenges: Being one of the closest allies of Moscow, China’s initiatives are considered seriously in Western circles. However, Western leaders are also aware of Beijing’s power play.
- US leaders have accused China of preparing to sell arms to Russia even as it talks peace. They also recognize China’s role in trying to drive a wedge between the US and Europe.
Balancing Russian and Ukrainian Concerns
- India and China must go beyond just general concerns about war and suggest concrete steps towards peace.
- China’s plans: China’s plans have emphasized on the need to uphold the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the UN Charter. It also wants legitimate security interests of Russia to be respected.
- Ukraine’s interest: Ukraine’s aim would be about reversing the Russian occupation of eastern Ukraine and Crimea and seeking long-term security guarantees from third parties.
- Russia’s interest: For Russia, security would be about restricting the sovereignty of Ukraine and its neighbours to the west.
- “Limited sovereignty” for its neighbours and preventing the presence of other powers on its periphery are other security expectations of Russia.
Potential Peace Process
- Ceasefire must be the first step towards any political solution. However, many European leaders believe that a ceasefire will help Russia, allowing it to control occupied territories, and give it a chance to recoup and renew its attacks against Ukraine.
- They believe that ceasefire must be associated with some broad understanding of the nature of peace.
- Ceasefire would also mean giving up a nation’s territory for the sake of peace with an aggressor. This will not be acceptable to even mediators such as India.
- Being the two countries friendly to Russia, there has been widespread expectation that China and India can nudge Moscow towards a more reasonable posture.
- Both the countries may have not directly criticized Russia for the invasion but have expressed their discomfort at the war.
- The room for diplomacy in Ukraine is increasing, but the barriers to peace are very high. However, India must not be discouraged by the massive obstacles.
- The stakes are very high, as establishing peace in Ukraine would recalibrate their great power relations and reorder Eurasian geopolitics.