NATO and the European Union have functioned in slow motion.
What is the zeitgeist—the spirit of the age? All I can say is that I sorely miss it.
Before I come to the war in Ukraine and its horror, I will refer to a stunningly moving act of one of our students in Ukraine, 21-year-old Rishab Kaushik from Dehradun refused to leave Ukraine or get into the Indian Air Force rescue plane unless he was allowed to take his pet dog Malibu with him. Finally, Rishab and Malibu reached Ghaziabad on 27 February.
For the past few days, I have been recalling what the Swedish Count Axel Gustafson Oxenstierna (1583-1654) said: “Know, my son, with how little wisdom the World is governed.”
The United Nations was founded in 1945. At the opening, the Secretary of State of the United State uninhibitedly declared, “The Veto provision was an absolute condition for the United States’s participation in the United Nations.”
The superpowers (USA, UK, USSR, France and China) would not be subject to any coercion. The veto ensured that General Assembly or the Security Council could not act against any of the five permanent members. The greatest democracy in the world ensured the Security Council would be a law unto itself. It would not be a democratic establishment.
In the Security Council meeting earlier in the week, Russia vetoed the resolution that condemned Russia for “invading” Ukraine. India rightly abstained. It also did so in subsequent meetings.
The 20,000 Indians, mainly students, had a rough time while getting out of Ukraine. Very many had to walk 20 miles in freezing cold to reach a railway station. Chaos prevailed there. Hundreds were prevented from entering the compartments. Students from Pakistan, China and the Philippines had the same experience. East European countries are not known for tilting towards racism. But racism was in evidence in several places, particularly at stations in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to President Vladimir Putin to ensure the security and welfare of Indians and their leaving Ukraine. President Putin’s priority was and is the annihilation of Ukraine.
The bravery, courage and patriotism of the Ukrainians is breath-taking.
NATO and the European Union have, if I may say so, functioned in slow motion. Sanctions do not work instantly. China has made that clear.
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has displayed extraordinary guts, staying power and fearlessness. He is Jewish and had been an immensely accomplished and brilliant comedian. Today he is a world figure.
Why do our medical students go to Ukraine? The answer is simple. The fees in Indian medical colleges and universities are exorbitant. Not less than Rs 15 lakh for a six-year course. In Ukraine, they pay half. Cannot government take action against these private medical universities, which fleece young men and women who do not come from rich families?
In some quarters there is talk of prosecuting President Putin for war crimes. This is confusing reality with fiction. How is this absurdity to be implemented as long as he is President? Who will lead the coup against him?
I am reading Jairam Ramesh’s brilliant and masterly biography of P.N. Haksar, the most powerful and respected civil servant for almost a decade in Indira Gandhi’s tenure as Prime Minister. On his retirement she wrote him an admiring letter, which is reproduced below:
Dec 25, 1972
Dear Haksar Saheb,
I have hesitated to write or to speak. Some things are too deep for words or it may be that I am not enough of a writer to find the right words. I have no new or better phrases in which to tell you what so many have been repeating—much to your annoyance—all these days and even months, whenever the question of your leaving us has arisen.
During a period which has spanned so many crises you have stood like a rock. Your wise guidance has been invaluable in helping us to negotiate the obstacles and steer clear of the many pitfalls endangering our onward journey, and even our survival.
There is perhaps no dearth of worthy, intelligent, even sincere or conscientious persons. But the need is for something over and above that, as you yourself are well aware. These qualities can be useful only if they are combined with a depth of judgement which is based on long experience of men, especially in government, and affairs of India as well as the world; on an insight into tends and forces. There can be no doubt that your retirement will greatly diminish the efficacy of the PM’s Sectt and will be a great loss to me.
At this stage, I can only say thank you for all your help and wish you better health in the years to come.
With every good wish