Putin, Modi, Volodymyr Zelenskyy
The organisers want Narendra Modi, if he is re-elected as Prime Minister again, to attend the conference, to which Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) has not been invited. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky's 10-point peace formula will be discussed at the event.

Ukraine Peace Summit | PM may skip event that’s seen as Western bid to snub Russia

While India is committed to supporting any peace initiative to end Ukraine conflict, it is unlikely to rally behind Western effort to humiliate Russia

Western countries are desperately trying to get India to attend a global peace conference in Switzerland next month, which will see participation from top global statesmen. They want to gather international opinion, especially among countries in the developing world, to isolate Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

The Summit on Peace in Ukraine is scheduled for June 15-16 in the Swiss town of Burgenstock.

Ostensibly, the conference aims to bring the war in Ukraine to an early end and establish peace. But, behind the façade of talking peace, it is yet another attempt to isolate Russia internationally.

India's peace stance

The US-led Western bloc has made several attempts to corner Russia at the UN over its invasion. But it has failed to get most countries to make common cause against Moscow.

India has stood for a negotiated settlement to end the Ukraine bloodbath, and has taken part in some peace initiatives. Last year, it sent a delegation led by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to a meeting hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Jeddah.

It is not clear yet at what level India will join the Switzerland conference. However, going by the past, its participation will be at a much lower level than the prime minister’s although the West is keen to see the head of the state at the venue.

Russia winning war?

The peace conference comes even as Russia is widely seen to be winning despite the West’s increasing military support to Ukraine. Kyiv will find it very difficult to win back territories lost to Moscow.

The attempt in Switzerland will be to name and shame Russia to defeat it diplomatically if not militarily.

The West is keen that India not only participate in the conference but do it at the highest political level. Thus, Western countries want Prime Minister Narendra Modi, if he is re-elected, to head the Indian delegation.

Western lobbying

Hectic lobbying has been going on to this end. In recent months, a number of high-level delegations from Europe have flown to India.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis and Swiss Foreign Secretary Alexandre Fasel were in Delhi to convince the government that Modi should attend the meeting.

The results of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections will be out on June 4. If Modi wins, he is expected to take part in a Group of Seven (G-7) summit in Italy on June 14-15. Therefore, the organisers of the Swiss event assume that Modi will not have any problem attending their peace conference after the G-7 summit.

Invitations for the conference have been sent to over 160 heads of state and government, including several leaders from the Global South. Though American President Joe Biden, other G-7 leaders, and the Presidents of China, Brazil and South Africa have been invited, Russia has been left out.

This led former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal to remark that it is akin to attending a wedding where the bridegroom is missing.

Putin not invited

Not only has Russian President Vladimir Putin been kept out, but the conference will discuss a 10-point peace formula of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is expected to articulate a maximalist position.

Zelensky wants an immediate return of Ukrainian territories captured by Russia, payment of indemnity and reparation by Moscow for the destruction and loss of life in the war, and trials of Russian leaders and generals for war crimes.

Putin, who visited China last week, has described the Swiss conference as “futile” and an exercise in “empty scholasticism with no prospect of getting at least some tangible result”.

Western frustration

China has said it will support any peace conference that has both Russia and Ukraine in it.

The West continues to woo India, which has so far maintained neutrality in the war and has not supported any sanctions or statements at the UN that condemn Russia. The failure to get India to support its effort has frustrated US and European leaders, it weakens their attempt to project the Ukraine war as a fight against democracy and autocracy.

India is seen as having a lot of influence among the developing countries and also being friendly with the West.

If Modi attends the Switzerland meeting and supports some of the points on the table, it will be seen as a big step by the West in driving a wedge among supporters of Russia.

While India is committed to supporting any peace initiative to end the Ukraine conflict, it is highly unlikely that it will rally behind a Western effort that seeks to humiliate Russia.

Russia matters

Moscow is a close strategic partner of India, and has supported it at various times. It remains India’s main defence partner. The two counties also cooperate in areas ranging from trade and investment to nuclear and space.

More important, Russia allows India a hedge against both China and the US. India’s attempt is to ensure that its border tensions with China do not end up in a war. It will have to ensure strong ties with Russia as ties with China will remain a challenge.

Also, maintaining strong ties with Russia despite its growing relations with the Americans has allowed New Delhi strategic independence and better bargaining power with the US.

Indications suggest that though Modi is likely to attend the G-7 summit in Italy if he wins the election, he may stay away from Switzerland and send a lower-level delegation for the peace meet.
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