India can't accept Russian invasion: Shashi Tharoor


K A Johny

It shows lack of conviction and courage on our part that we refrain from condemning the open violation of international laws by Russia.

Interview

Shashi Tharoor | Photo: PTI

An independent nation is being invaded in total public glare. And no one is there to prevent it. Isn't it really frightening?

Indeed! Do you remember the novel by Garcia Marques ' Chronicle of a death foretold? ' This is a chronicle of a war foretold. This has been discussed for the last seven to eight weeks. There had been enough intelligent reports which indicated imminent war. What is absolutely astonishing is that we are into the second decade of the 21st century and the kind of action we witness right now takes us a century back. That was the time when grievances of a nation were addressed through the use of force which can never be accepted by democratic forces. It's a very serious matter. I am not dismissing Russia's legitimate security concerns. But what they have done now is a clear violation of international law and the UN charter and certainly is inexcusable in terms of any yardsticks of interstate relations.

The absence of a strong, moral force at the global level, deepens the crisis. The situation is getting murkier and murkier as the UN is standing like a mute witness. How do you look at this sad scenario?

The UN secretary-general issued a very emotional statement yesterday. He has pleaded with the Russian president to stop the invasion in the name of all humanity. But as you said morality has taken a back seat and the world feels it very much. Even India, the heir to the moral legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, has chosen to play a very cynic role in the face of a global crisis. The statement that India made in the Un security council didn't even mention Russia and spoke about de-escalation on both sides as if both sides were escalating. It is clear we believe that morality is not in our short term national interest. I think they are wrong. India should realise that there are some international rules that we should uphold in our own interest. Tomorrow, if the Chinese march across our frontiers, we would expect the rest of the world to condemn them. But when Russia does that to Ukraine we seem to be less bothered.

India finds itself in a bind. On the one hand, there appears to be the formation of a China-Pak- Russia axis and on the other side, the US is accusing us of being on the wrong side of history?

Well, I think we are on the wrong side of history and history is not going to be kind to people who violate international law. As far as the bind is concerned, we are friends of Russia and we should be able to get Russia to understand our compulsions. It looks like we are afraid to condemn the Russians. We should remember when we marched into Bangladesh in 1971 so many countries that were supposed to be our friends voted against us in the UN because we had violated the international laws upheld by the world organization. There are principles of international laws which we can uphold without necessarily affecting our friendship with any nation. It shows a lack of conviction and courage on our part that we refrain from condemning the open violation of international laws by Russia.

Ukraine has been a democratic country since the fall of the Soviet block. It is one of the few countries where the opposition is still very active. But the so-called guardian angels of democracy are looking the other way?

That is true. But I won't say all of them are looking the other way. They have imposed economic sanctions and they are not in a position to do more than that. There is no formal military alliance between them and Ukraine. Nations like France, Germany and the US look determined in their efforts to isolate Russia. Germany has decided to put the Nord Stream pipeline project on hold. It will have a huge economic impact on both nations.

What is the way out? Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel?

My own view is that the Russians will not go back till they achieve their objectives.

What could be that objective? Is it that Russia wants a change of regime in Ukraine?

I am inclined to suspect that. They will cease the military operation once they achieve their objective. Since no other nation is going to step in to extend military help to Ukraine it seems Russia will withdraw only after they meet their goals.

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