Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Express View on UN and Ukraine: Break the impasse

On Monday, the opening day of the UN General Assembly and a day before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the gathering, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a plea. At the halfway mark, the deadline to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set in 2015 — global progress on ending poverty, addressing climate change and expanding rights — looks unattainable. By most estimates, only 15 per cent of the 169 SDG targets are on track. Guterres requested members to use the two-day summit to formulate a rescue plan. Unfortunately, on Day 2 at the UN, the conflict in Ukraine once again overshadowed all other concerns, including and especially of the Global South.

Nearly 600 days after Russia invaded Ukraine, the conflict is looking more entrenched and the lines between the US and the West, and Russia, China and its allies are sharper than before. Moscow’s justification for the attack — that the expansion of NATO threatens its national security — should now be a reason for it to seek a diplomatic solution: Finland (which shares a border with Russia) and Sweden have joined the alliance and with its assistance to Ukraine in terms of weapons, intelligence and operations, the Western strategic presence has grown. Isolated from its traditional partners, and dependent on China, Russia today is more diminished than it was before the invasion. Speaking at the General Assembly, Zelenskyy made an anguished cry against human rights abuses in his country. However, by closing the door to a compromise, by being more worried about “appeasement” than peace, the US president and Western leaders seem to have narrowed the room for a diplomatic settlement. Beijing has used the conflict to expand its influence, despite its growing economic woes.

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India and some other developing countries have managed to walk a fine line since the invasion began. New Delhi has rightly called for peace, maintained its ties with Moscow, even as it expands its relationship with the US and the West. But the Ukraine war has caused worrying volatility in global supply chains for essential commodities like fuel and food. The resources of the West, Russia’s security and welfare of the world are all strained, thanks to this conflict, and the needs of the poor and vulnerable, and the majority of humanity that resides in the Global South, are seemingly on the back burner. This state of affairs points to the diplomatic failures of both sides since February 24, 2022. It is time for active diplomatic efforts to move beyond the current impasse. Else, the promise of the G20, for instance, and the hope behind the enumeration of the SDGs, will remain on paper for longer.

© The Indian Express (P) Ltd

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