The foreign ministry briefed the 21-member consultative committee today on the situation in Ukraine, and the ongoing effort to evacuate the stranded Indian citizens, especially students. The meeting came amid growing opposition criticism of the government’s handling of the situation — evacuation and the UN vote. Congress’s Shashi Tharoor — who was present at the meet with Rahul Gandhi and Anand Sharma — expressed satisfaction later, tweeting, “It was a good meeting. We are all united”. Foreign minister S Jaishankar also tweeted about a “Strong and unanimous message of support”.
The 21-member committee is headed by Mr Jaishankar, who made the presentation along with Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. Nine MPs from six political parties attended the meeting. The list included Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha member Priyanka Chaturvedi, who has been questioning the government on the problems faced by Indian students in Ukraine.
Rahul Gandhi has been vocal on Twitter about the evacuation efforts and the role of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who he said, “was missing in action”.
After an Indian student was killed in shelling at Ukraine’s Kharkiv on Tuesday, he tweeted: “To avert further tragedy, the Government must share how many students have been evacuated, how many are still stranded in Ukraine and a region wise detailed evacuation plan”.
Mr Tharoor has been critical of not only the evacuation efforts, but also deviated from the party line to question India’s abstention in voting against Russia at the United Nations Security Council.
“Our stand has been that we do not support invading other countries and regime change through violence and war… After our abstention, many regretted that India had placed itself on the ‘wrong side of history’,” Mr Tharoor had said.
After the meeting today, Mr Tharoor tweeted: “Excellent meeting of the Consultative Committee on External Affairs this morning on Ukraine. My thanks to Dr S Jaishankar & his colleagues for a comprehensive briefing & candid responses to our questions & concerns. This is the spirit in which foreign policy should be run”.
Nine MPs attended from six political parties. @INCIndia MPs present were @RahulGandhi, @AnandSharmaINC & myself. Frank discussions took place in an amicable atmosphere, a reminder that when it comes to national interests we are all Indians first and foremost.
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) March 3, 2022
“(We had) many points. MEA will talk. It was a good meeting. We are all united,” a third tweet from Mr Tharoor read.
Mr Jaishankar also tweeted about the meet. “Just completed a MEA consultative committee meeting on developments in Ukraine. A good discussion on the strategic and humanitarian aspects of the issue. Strong and unanimous message of support for efforts to bring back all Indians from Ukraine,” his tweet read.
“A national consensus on the importance of dialogue and diplomacy. Thank all members for their participation,” read another tweet.
A national consensus on the importance of dialogue and diplomacy.
Thank all members for their participation.
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) March 3, 2022
The Congress had taken a diplomatic stance on the UN vote, in line with that of the government. “The Congress while expressing its anguish is of the considered view that the international community must work together for cessation of armed conflict and early restoration of peace to save human lives and further aggravation of the crisis,” read a statement from the party.
Earlier this week, India has abstained from voting at the UN Security Council on a US-sponsored resolution that deplored in strongest terms Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
Yesterday too, India abstained from voting at the United Nations General Assembly on a resolution demanding that Russia stop military operations in Ukraine, saying its “foremost priority” was evacuation of Indian nationals.
PM Modi spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday to review the situation in Ukraine and Indian evacuation efforts.
“The leaders reviewed the situation in Ukraine, especially in the city of Kharkiv where many Indian students are stuck. They discussed the safe evacuation of the Indian nationals from the conflict areas,” read a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.