Efficacy of Delhi as the mediator amidst Ukraine and Russia conflict

Contact Counsellor

Efficacy of Delhi as the mediator amidst Ukraine and Russia conflict

  • Nearly 40 days ago, Russia launched a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine in violation of international law and its security assurances under the Budapest Memorandum, 1994.
  • Despite peace talks, direct negotiations have failed to make progress.

Recent developments

A ceasefire is yet to be achieved and as a result, there have been 3,455 civilian casualties recorded in Ukraine while more than four million people have fled seeking protection, safety and assistance.

  • Financial and economic sanctions imposed by the EU and the G7 have impacted the Russian economy.
  • Despite artificial measures to prop up the rouble, the economy is tanking, the Russian Central Bank’s forex reserves remain frozen and it cannot access financing and loans from multilateral institutions.
  • At the global level, supply chains are disrupted and are causing fuel and food prices to surge.
  • This raises the question - if this unnecessary war has resulted in a no-win situation, why have negotiations failed to end it?

Positions versus interests

Past negotiations have failed because the parties have been negotiating over ‘positions’ rather than ‘interests’.

  • ‘Position’: surface statement of what a party wants
    • Eg: Russia’s demand that Ukraine recognises the separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.
  • ‘Interests’: underlying reasons behind those positions
    • Eg: why is Russia focused on the independence of these separatist areas?

Efficacy of Mediatin

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Mediation as a conflict resolution tool can assist the parties in identifying hidden ‘interests’ and facilitate them in working towards crafting a solution that each of the parties would value - a Europe of common security and prosperity where the sovereignty of all nations (Ukraine, Russia and the West) are guaranteed.

  • Mediation (or assisted negotiation) is a flexible conflict resolution tool facilitated by a neutral third party.
  • Depending on the choice of parties, it can be facilitative or evaluative and can be conducted in joint sessions or caucuses.
  • Its focus on collaborative bargaining producing a win-win outcome equips it to handle conflicts of all kinds: from workplace disputes to broken contracts to international conflicts.
  • Due to its immense potential, the Charter of the United Nations under Article 33 recognises the promise of international mediation for the peaceful resolution of international disputes.

Brokering peace

Ambrose Bierce: “speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

Throughout history, individuals, countries and organisations have acted as third parties and have brokered peace between conflicting nations.

  • The best-known example is U.S. President Jimmy Carter who mediated peace between Israel and Egypt (k/a Camp David Accords of 1978) that has resulted in 44 years of peace.

Emotions have a significant influence on cognitive processes If emotions are running high between conflicting parties it is very likely that either or both parties get re-active (i.e., to act without thinking). This is where a neutral third party can act as a ‘go-between’ to gather more information and help the parties identify their hidden interests.

  • This helps in ensuring that conflicting parties keep their eyes on the prize.
  • The mediator shuttling between parties helps in limiting or reducing re-active devaluation
  • Subject to context and the consent of parties, the mediator can either play a passive role to facilitate communication or a more active role and exert more influence on the content of the discussion and the final solution.

Focusing on the priority

It may appear that mediation legitimises past violations of international law and civilian killings but it is a bit more complicated. Mediation is a tool that avoids ‘being reactive’. It helps focus on the safety of the Ukrainian people through a complete ceasefire. Power parity between disputing parties is pivotal to the success of international mediation. Indeed, there exists a huge power imbalance between Russia and Ukraine, but Ukraine has sympathy. Thus, opting for mediation is the only way left for Russia. For the West, going ahead with mediation presents itself as an opportunity to build a Europe of common security, common prosperity and peace.

India fits the bill

For mediation to commence, the approval of the parties concerned will be crucial. Much depends on the identity of the mediator. The recent diplomatic visits to India, by the major countries, show that the world expects India to play a more active role in the Ukrainian crisis.

  • This is India’s golden chance to establish itself as a global power.
  • Playing mediator in this dispute is in India’s long-term interest in countering the China threat
    • Moreover, with the rise of China and its belligerence, its relationship with the West has soured.
    • The U.S. and its allies need India as a strategic partner to balance the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific
  • For now, India is right in not taking sides.
    • Its relationship with the then-Soviet Union was forged to balance against China.
    • But with the Ukraine invasion and western sanctions, Russia is now more dependent on China.
    • Hence, if India wants the best of both worlds, it must step up and live up to its claim of becoming a ‘Vishwa-Guru’ (or world leader).

Exam track

Prelims take away

  • Shuttle diplomacy
  • Location-based question
  • Camp David Accords of 1978

Mains track

Q. Explain the efficacy of mediation as a tool in resolving international disputes. In what ways India’s role as a mediator in the recent crisis is a golden chance to establish itself as a global power.