February 22, 2022
NEW DELHI – India has asked for restraint and greater diplomatic effort to prevent a military escalation in Ukraine as the South Asian country prepared to evacuate its citizens after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine as independent and ordered in troops.
“The immediate priority is de-escalation of tensions taking into account the legitimate security interests of all countries and aimed towards securing long-term peace and stability in the region and beyond,” said Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday (Feb 21).
The Indian envoy noted the developments had the “potential to undermine peace and security of the region”.
“We are convinced that this issue can only be resolved through diplomatic dialogue. We need to give space to the recent initiatives undertaken by parties which seek to defuse tensions,” he said.
India, which has close ties with both Russia and the United States, has been in touch with Moscow and Washington on Ukraine.
New Delhi has sought to balance its position amid the deepening crisis, refraining from taking sides in spite of pressure, particularly from Washington, to take a stand on the crisis.
Russia, which has thanked India for its position, remains a close defence partner while proximity with the US has deepened amid convergences of interests mainly over the growing Chinese threat in the region.
India is also a member of the Quadrilateral Security Forum – or Quad – with US, Australia and Japan.
While the South Asian country hopes to protect bilateral ties with Russia and the US from any blowback from the Ukraine crisis, a more immediate priority is the safety of Indian citizens.
There are 20,000 Indian professionals and students studying in different parts of Ukraine including in the border areas, said Mr Tirumuti.
Evacuations are expected to start on Tuesday as an Air India flight left for Ukraine to bring back Indian citizens, reported Indian news agency Asian News International (ANI).
The Indian Embassy in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, tweeted that additional flights were being added on Feb 25, Feb 27 and and March 6.
The embassy on Sunday had advised Indian nationals, whose stay is not essential, to leave Ukraine temporarily even as Indian media had reported that families of Indian Embassy officials had also been asked to return home.
The embassy in its advisory additionally asked students to get in touch with students contractors for updates on charter flights out of Ukraine.