Rajat Sharma

Turmoil in world: India needs a strong leader

akbThe faceoff between Russia and the West led by US has escalated dramatically with the Russian lawmakers authorising President Putin to use military forces outside his country. The situation in Ukraine has turned volatile with Russia sending armed forces to two breakaway regions. The entire world is worried over the outcome of the conflict.

Air India on Tuesday evacuated 242 Indian students, who landed in Delhi after midnight, and more are lined up for evacuation. US President Joe Biden announced fresh sanctions against Russian banks, Russian oligarchs and their family members. UK, Canada, Japan, Australia and most of the 27 European Union nations have also imposed sanctions against Russia. Biden also announced that he was moving additional US forces to shore up defences in the Baltic states bordering Russia.

Experts fear that the conflict between Russian and Western armies could result in the outbreak of Third World War. Russian tanks and fighter jets have taken up positions for an impending attack on Ukraine. All efforts at persuading Putin to back out have failed, despite direct interference by the French President and German Chancellor.

In his brief address from the White House, President Biden accused Putin of flagrantly violating international law. He spoke about “beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine”. Russian President Putin has put two conditions for de-escalation: one, Ukraine must recognize Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea, that it annexed in 2014, and two, it must renounce its bid to join Nato and carry out partial demilitarization.

The situation has become more complex with Putin deciding to recognize both the breakaway regions, Donetsk and Lugansk, which have applied for recognition as independent countries. On Monday night, there were fireworks in both these breakaway regions, after they announced independence unilaterally. At the UN Security Council, India walked the tightrope and urged all sides to “exercise utmost restraint” and step up diplomatic efforts to find a “mutually amicable solution” to the crisis.

The tension in Ukraine began in December last year when its president announced that his country would soon join NATO. Russia retaliated by deploying 1.25 lakh soldiers on its border with Ukraine, and carried out war exercises with another neighbour, Belarus. Russian army also carried out war exercises with nuclear missiles in the Black Sea near Ukraine. Putin demanded that the West must promise not to induct Ukraine into NATO, and withdraw its weapons from Ukraine. Both Biden and Putin had virtual summit and foreign ministers of both the countries met several times, but the efforts did not yield any positive result. Now both Russian army posing as “peacekeepers” and NATO-aided Ukraine forces are poised at an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.

A war in Europe will naturally cause turmoil in world markets. With the Russian army entering rebel-held regions of Ukraine, prices of gold and crude oil have skyrocketed. There is a slump in stock markets across the world. Imagine the consequences if a full-scale war takes place. A war in Ukraine will surely cause an adverse impact on India’s foreign trade and also on oil imports. The focus of Indian government is now on evacuating nearly 20,000 Indians living in Ukraine. Out of them, nearly 18,000 are students. The Indian Embassy has asked all Indian students to leave Ukraine temporarily.

For India, it is surely a tightrope walk. Russia has been India’s old friend and a major supplier of arms. On the other hand, both the US and European Union are India’s big trading partners. India also a close friendship with the US, which has supplied it with 3.4 billion dollars worth helicopters and other defence equipment in the last year of Trump administration.

Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said, “the world cannot afford another conflict and India is clearly of the view that there should be de-escalation of tension.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi indirectly referred to the Ukraine crisis, while addressing an election rally in Bahraich, UP. Modi said, “ You can see there is so much turmoil in the world right now. In such a situation, it is essential that India must remain strong, both for its own sake and for mankind. Each vote from you will make India stronger. A strong India is crucial in times of global turmoil”.

Modi is right. India must remain strong in these tough times. India is one of the world leaders. India will have to put forward its steps carefully. The Ukraine conflict is surely going to affect us. If prices of crude oil rises internationally, it will surely affect our economy and our household budget. Already, world crude price has crossed 100 dollars a barrel. A hike in fuel prices is surely going to cause inflation due to rise in prices of essential commodities.

Moreover, in times of global uncertainty and turmoil, enemies of India, who have been lying in waiting, may try to take undue advantage. Terrorists may try to execute plots and cause mayhem. Their masterminds sitting in Pakistan are already active and may try to destabilize India.

Modi has already changed the tone of poll campaign by raising the issue of terrorism. On Tuesday, at his rally, he spoke about how ‘pariwarwaadi’ (dynasts) have been expressing their love for terrorists. “Those who put our security in jeopardy can never work for the welfare of UP. This soil of Bahraich has always foiled the evil designs of terrorists. These pariwarwaadis had been planning to get people who were accused of involved in several blasts, released from jail. They were against the government’s decision to prosecute these terrorists. The Samajwadi Party government was even against the banning of terror outfits.”

Modi then mentioned about the Ahmedabad Special Court verdict which gave death sentence to 38 convicts who had carried out serial blasts in 2008. “The court has done the right thing. We must respect the court verdict. But these people are silent. They have realized that they have been exposed before the people. Every child in UP knows who was helping whom.”

Some of the convicts who have been given the death sentence in Ahmedabad serial blasts, belong to UP. Already, a photograph of the father of one of the convicts, hailing from Azamgarh, with SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav is in circulation. This is the reason why BJP has made terrorism an issue in the UP elections.

Political expediency apart, it has been our experience during the last 20 years that the nation needs a strong leader like Modi to combat terrorism. Even his political rivals concede that whenever tough situations arose, Modi never failed in taking tough and bold decisions, and sent terrorists to their logical destinations. It was under Modi’s direction as chief minister that the Gujarat police painstakingly prepared a water-tight case against all the 49 convicts and secured the court’s verdict.

When Modi was prime minister, the Indian army struck the dens of terrorists twice, right inside enemy territory. He foiled the designs of terrorists and their masterminds. A strong political will, followed by bold decisions, is required to combat terrorists. Modi has done it, when he was in Gujarat, and now, when he is at the Centre. At a time when war clouds are hovering the horizon, and war could break out anytime, the nation needs a strong leader like Modi.

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