Russia-Ukraine war

Can PM Modi broker peace between Russia and the West?

Can PM Modi broker peace between Russia and the West?
PM Modi with Russian President Vladimir Putin at SCO summit last week

Kolkata: In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the USA brokered peace in the Russo-Japanese  War and earned the Nobel Peace Prize. As per defensible logic, PM Modi is uniquely poised to do the same in the 2022 Russian aggression. 

Just recently, in the SCO summit meeting, our PM chided the Russian President directly for pursuing armed conflict in an era of non-negotiable peace. Putin’s response was remarkably civil, acknowledging that this was a matter which made his Indian counterpart anxious and a solution was indeed nigh.

Earlier this week, French President Macron complimented our PM’s stand on this matter at the UNGA, clearly the views of the overwhelming majority. So, when the news of mass mobilisation was flashed just yesterday, the imminent necessity to calm Russian belligerence was plainly apparent. 

The Russian intent is strangely similar to the Nazi build-up to the second world war as if a photocopied case study. Fictitious enemies threatening the sovereignty of the nation with the armed forces totally in cahoots with the political leadership. Mass murders in occupied territories (just discovered in Ukraine) in tandem with the stated unquestioned loyalty of the citizenry and the anecdotal televised protests are frankly useless.

The state is cracking down sharply on the latter and in another bizarre similarity to the Wehrmacht, convicted murderers are being secretly released to fight as sanctioned soldiers. Mobilisation of civilians is potentially a theatrical trailer to the winds of war, thus enhancing the Germany 1938 analogy.

But equally, unlike pre-Second World War, the universe today is accustomed to peace, and the material and hedonistic advantages of the same.

While there is a China lurking on the other side, quite like Japan of that era, that nation is driven by the economics of manufacturing and trade, a preferable option certainly to military destruction.

So, while they will keep on needling Taiwan, arguably a bona fide historical enmity, and browbeating India, for territorial brownies, the motivation to partner with an intercontinental military alliance is surely limited.

In the thirty years since the dismantling of the Eastern Bloc, the erstwhile Warsaw Pact nations have also discovered the magic of autonomy, and we hear that Lithuania and Latvia are ensuring that there is no Russian encroachment in the general hysteria. 

So, where does the role of PM Modi come in? Firstly as Indians, unconnected to domestic political affiliations, we must be mighty proud that finally, we are a voice to reckon with in serious geopolitics, not South Asian skirmishes.

Most certainly in the Suez crisis of 1956, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the Vietnam War and more recently the conflicts in Islamic Asia, our opinion was surely childishly token, as the Big Boys were at play.

But today, at 75, courtesy our galloping economic and political stature, India can play a decisive role in global imbroglios, a major amplification of how we helped liberate Bangladesh.

PM Modi’s candid chiding of Putin has caught the fancy of World leaders and equally vitally, provoked a civilised reply from the Russian potentate, not his usual abusive repartee to Western implorations. 

To take this point forward, any mediator must enjoy an optimal level of mutual trust and respect, in tandem with a genuine degree of intent by both parties. Unlike say Neville Chamberlain’s Munich Agreement of 1938 or the Molotov Ribbentrop pact of 1939 ( Russia and Germany agreeing split Poland), where the Nazis had no desire for peace.

PM Modi is uniquely placed on the trust equilibrium, enjoying the historical confidence of Russia and the modern-day backing of the West.

The former is stemming from well-known realpolitik during the Cold War and cemented by military deals, while the latter is an outcome of India’s ravishing economic potential and the potency of successful immigrants, bolstered economically by deals such as Rafale.

What also helps is a demonstration of objective neutrality, as a logical leaning towards Russia was soon succeeded by solidarity with Ukraine post carnage, in spite of the latter’s favouritism for rogue Pakistan.

Also, we are a historically peace-loving nation, with the last spells of proactive aggression during the accession of the princely states. 

In all his actions, Putin is smelling a lot like Herr Hitler and thanks to the information explosion, none of his escapades is one-way traffic.

Also, unlike the Second World War, he clearly has no external sympathisers, except China and a few minors, and as mentioned earlier, nobody except the arms industry and James Bond scriptwriters have a serious appetite for fresh conflict. Perhaps the conflict can be fought via Virtual Reality on the metaverse, with AI-led infusion of documented resources (man and machine), and the annual winners be rewarded in cryptocurrency, of which Ukraine is ironically the largest player. This would be a fascinating application of avatars possible through technology, where nations conceptually win or lose, but without a loss of life.

On PM Modi though, I trust his advisors will not let the diplomatic momentum slip, ensuring that he continues making suitable statements, and at an appropriate time, offer to be a mediator by convening the Delhi Agreement between Russia and the West and ending the Ukraine war.

This is a unique opportunity for India in the annals of time, and the Peace Prize jury may well be taking copious notes.