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Difficult Word/ PhraseContextual Sense
Overseas in, to or from another country that you have to cross the sea to get to
Regime a form of government or rule; political system
Pronged An approach having two or three parts
Abstain Refrain from voting
Subvert hinder normal operations
Red carpet Special treatment or hospitality
Cordial Politely warm and friendly
Amenable Responsive to suggestions and influences
Curtail Place restrictions on
Veer off to begin to go in the wrong direction
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In the middle: On India’s role in Russia-Ukraine crisis

On the Ukraine war India must fulfill its responsibilities as a non-aligned democracy

Forty days into the war in Ukraine, India’s role appears to be more relevant than other countries may have expected, evident from the stream of dignitaries from overseas (in, to or from another country that you have to cross the sea to get to) over the past two weeks. Most were from countries that are a part of the U.S. and EU-led sanctions regime against Russia. Their messages were three-pronged (An approach having two or three parts): asking India to change its vote at the UN, where it has abstained (Refrain from voting) from all resolutions critical of Russia’s invasion; to request that India not “accelerate” its purchases of Russian oil being offered at discount; and to discourage India from using the rupee-rouble national currency-based payment mechanisms that could subvert (hinder normal operations) “backfilling sanctions”. The messages got sharper and more public as it became clear that New Delhi would also host Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and officials from the West hoped to turn India’s position to their side. However, the red carpet (Special treatment or hospitality) welcome he received, including a cordial (Politely warm and friendly) meeting with the Prime Minister, appeared to make it clear that New Delhi is not amenable (Responsive to suggestions and influences) to the pressure. The External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, and the Finance Minister also reinforced the position of the Indian “national interest”, given that European countries have yet to curtail (Place restrictions on) oil intakes from Russia. It is likely that the U.S. will make another attempt to veer the Government off (veer off means to begin to go in the wrong direction) its chosen course when Mr. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visit Washington for the “2+2” meetings, where a possible waiver of CAATSA sanctions against India for the purchase of the Russian S-400 systems will also be discussed. The U.S. is also keen to squeeze Russia on the multilateral stage, with proposals to exclude it from the G-20 summit this year, and suspend it from the Human Rights Council.

While the Government cannot be faulted for its refusal to bow to external pressure, it must consider the importance of remaining flexible on what its stand both at the UN and in bilateral conversations is going to be, given the ground situation in Ukraine. Reports of gross human rights violations blamed on the Russian army could change the complexion of the war, and India’s call for an independent inquiry into the allegations is an important intervention. In addition, the U.S. and the EU are likely to tighten economic sanctions, as the current restrictions have not made Russia reconsider its course. With Russia unlikely to relinquish areas of Eastern Ukraine, and its western rivals not likely to let up their counter-measures, New Delhi must realise that its value to the two sides will last while it remains uncommitted to either side. This will require having a keen eye on rapid developments in the theatre of war, an ear on what partners on both sides plan next, and the ability to keep its mind open on where India’s responsibilities, as a global democracy, and a truly non-aligned power, lie.

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