India calls Ukraine conflict a 'wake-up call' for Europe

New Delhi has rebutted the West's calls to take a firmer stance on the Ukraine crisis

India's External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar dismissed what he called 'a lot of arguments from Europe'. AP

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India's foreign minister on Tuesday said the Ukraine-Russia conflict represented a “wake-up” call for Europe.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar's comments served as a rebuttal to a leading European politician who had issued a warning that the crisis would have consequences for New Delhi’s interests in Asia.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Monday sounded caution for India over the Ukraine conflict and said the crisis would affect the Asia-Pacific region, where India and China are engaged in a power tussle.

But on the second day of the Raisina Dialogue, India’s biggest foreign policy event, Mr Jaishankar dismissed the claims and accused the West of turning a blind eye towards Asia.

“We've been hearing for the last two months a lot of arguments from Europe, saying there are things happening in Europe and Asia should worry about it, because this could happen in Asia,” Mr Jaishankar said.

“Guess what? Things have been happening in Asia for the last 10 years. Europe may not have looked at it, so this could be a wake-up call for Europe, not just in Europe, it could be a wake-up call for Europe to also look at Asia."

Mr Jaishankar said Asia has been under stress for a long time and rest of the world needs to recognise the challenges the region faces, including territorial disputes and state-sponsored terrorism.

He talked about last year’s Afghanistan crisis and said an “entire civil society was thrown under the bus by the world”.

Several western nations, including the US, have in recent weeks have advised India that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could set a precedent and pose a threat to India’s security in the Asia-Pacific region, where New Delhi has joined an informal US-led “quad” alliance to blunt China’s influence.

The latest warning came from Ms von der Leyen in her address at the Raisina Dialogue.

She said the European crisis was a “defining moment” and the right decisions by nations would determine future politics and the state of the global economy.

“If we consider what it means for Europe and Asia that Russia and China have forged a seemingly unrestrained pact, they have declared that the friendship between them has no limits. There are no forbidden areas of co-operation,” she said.

Himalayan dispute

India and China are regional rivals who have been engaged in a military confrontation along the disputed border in the northern Himalayan Ladakh region, which led to a brief full-scale war in 1962.

Tension has been simmering since and in 2020 there was a deadly brawl between Indian and Chinese patrols in the area, leading to frosty diplomatic relations.

India’s stance on Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has irritated much of the West, with President Joe Biden describing New Delhi’s response to the crisis “somewhat shaky”.

Moscow is India’s Cold War ally and also its largest weapons supplier. Both nations consider each other as strategic partners.

But New Delhi's refusal to explicitly condemn Moscow, as well as its attempts to increase energy supplies from Russia, have caused discomfort among its friends in the West.

Some diplomats have expressed the view that the Kremlin will not come to New Delhi’s rescue in case of military confrontation with Beijing because of its proximity to China.

But several western governments have offered New Delhi enhanced security and energy co-operation in a bid to dilute Indian-Russian economic ties.

On a visit to India, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new and enhanced security and defence partnership with New Delhi, including a collaboration in jet fighter development and maritime surveillance.

Ms von der Leyen on Monday announced a special council for trade and technology with New Delhi and said the ties between the EU and the South Asian nation were "a priority”.

Updated: April 26, 2022, 4:21 PM