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Ukraine crisis: Congress stands with govt but flags rescue lapses

The party leaders said the initial advisories created confusion, leading to a situation in which the students got into trouble
Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi.
File photo

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 04.03.22, 01:52 AM

Congress leaders on Thursday insisted at a parliamentary consultative committee on foreign affairs meeting that the evacuation efforts of the Narendra Modi government were inadequate and came too late.

The government tried to contest the perception, arguing that the students stuck in Ukraine were confused and didn’t want to leave straightaway. But the Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, felt that an effective evacuation strategy wasn’t in place at the opportune moment.


They said the initial advisories created confusion, leading to a situation in which the students got into trouble. There was unanimity among Opposition members that the rescue operation should have started much earlier.

Although the meeting happened in a cordial atmosphere with Opposition members expressing solidarity with the government in times of such aninternational crisis, in the spirit of constructive criticism, they pointed to lapses.

Rahul stressed the need for evacuating all the students, asserting that the safety of Indians was the first priority.

Posting a video showing a student explaining how they received no help in Ukraine, Rahul has tweeted later: “Evacuation is a duty, not a favour.”

Sources said Rahul acknowledged that wars were always challenging and there were no perfect solutions in such situations. He praised the officials and embassy staff for helping the students.

Rahul wanted to know from the government its perspective on a Russia-China-Pakistan axis and whether China would be emboldened to become more aggressive against India after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

External affairs minister S. Jaishankar replied: “India is no Ukraine.”

The government didn’t elaborate on the strategic and diplomatic fallouts of the Russian action and the resultant realignment among nations. The sources said the Congress MPs showed understanding of India’s position on Russia, given the traditional relations and high stakes involved. Nobody advocated taking sides in this situation. 

The meeting was attended by nine MPs, including Congress leaders Anand Sharma and Shashi Tharoor. The committee was briefed by the foreign secretary.

Tharoor tweeted after the meeting: “Frank discussions took place in an amicable atmosphere, a reminder that when it comes to national interests we are all Indians first and foremost.”

He added: “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.”

Jaishankar tweeted: “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. A national consensus on the importance of dialogue and diplomacy. Thank all members for their participation.”

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