Ukraine Catastrophe

WITH every passing day, the west and Russia are getting closer to a bigger confrontation over Ukraine. Three weeks into war and more than three million people have fled Ukraine, nearly half of them minors, the UN has said. This is leading to a humanitarian catastrophe in Europe of the scale, not seen since world war II. There are no signs so far that the war is going to end anytime soon. No diplomatic activity has so far been undertaken. The talks between Russia and Ukraine have also gotten nowhere. Meanwhile, Russia is pressing closer to Ukraine's capital Kyiv. Russia also bombed Ukraine’s border with Poland, an act of aggression that threatened to widen the war.

One thing is clear: Russia has thrown down the gauntlet at the west. And this is not the first time Russia has done it. A few years ago, Russia’s intervention in Crimea had brought back the memories of the geo-politics of the cold war. Russia’s increasing defiance of the West and China’s inexorable rise has confronted the US and the EU with a new existential crisis. The new and more powerful global enemies like Russia and China could help create a new geo-political narrative and also its fallout will have implications for the world as a whole.

In South Asia, India and Pakistan have been hardpressed to grapple with the new geopolitical reality as the war progresses. They have found themselves in a difficult position of choosing sides. More so for India which has drawn close to the US over the past two decades. Washington's priorities with India are no longer regional in their nature but their scope is the larger geo-politics. In recent years, the US-India engagement has also been about the remaking of the global power equation with India not only being recognized as a global power in its own right but also as a countervailing force to China, effectively the world's No 2. It goes without saying that India's 1.3 billion population with value addition of a burgeoning middle class has become an ultimate attraction for the west.

Russia is the new entrant to this game. Having substantially recovered from a drastic power meltdown following the collapse of the USSR in 1989, Russia has again thrown its hat in the ring. And it isn’t bound by its old equations and associations with the countries of the region, including India. Russia is now getting closer to Beijing and even Islamabad, a prospect that hasn’t been to the liking of New Delhi.

Here’s hoping that diplomacy wins the day over Ukraine. The war, as it is now clear, could easily take on global proportions. And it will be a nightmarish scenario.

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