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Opposition questions ‘delay’ in Ukraine rescue ops; ministers counter

New Delhi, Apr 5 (PTI) Opposition members in Lok Sabha on Tuesday accused the Modi government of delaying the evacuation of Indian nationals from war-torn Ukraine and objected to the “chest-thumping” by Union Ministers tasked with leading the rescue efforts.

Participating in the discussion in the lower house on the situation in Ukraine, opposition members also wanted India to play a role of a “peacemaker” and make efforts to end the conflict, while a section wanted the government to use “stronger language” against Russia’s actions.

Rebutting the opposition charge of “delay”, Petroleum Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the government played a proactive role in the evacuation of Indian nationals from Ukraine and blamed educational institutions who advised students that the situation would return to normal soon and they may risk losing a year if they left the country mid-term.

Puri, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and Minister of State for Road Transport V K Singh, who were sent as special envoys to Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Poland to lead the evacuation operations, intervened in the discussion.

RSP member N K Premachandran said the hardships faced by stranded students could have been avoided had the government taken timely action.

“Miseries could have been avoided or averted if we had acted as other countries had done. This is the first strategic flaw… The feedback from the students and majority of the evacuees is that the government came into the scene only after they had crossed the borders,” Premachandran said initiating the discussion.

Congress member Manish Tewari said while India owed a debt of gratitude to the erstwhile USSR for its help during the Bangladesh war, “friends also have to be told if they are wrong and that they possibly need to get their act together”.

Tewari noted that the US and Britain have been building up pressure to take a stronger line against Russia and reminded the government of the policy of non-alignment pursued by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

“But the fact remains that those principles which were enunciated then possibly have stood the test of time, and the crisis in Ukraine and the position which the Government of India has taken possibly bear the most eloquent testimony to those principles which were articulated at the founding of our Republic,” he said.

On the evacuation efforts, Tewari said he had never seen the kind of chest-thumping and self-congratulatory ecstasy which was on display during the rescue efforts.

“Making young students, children chant slogans in favour of the government in aeroplanes by ministers … I think, was a self-defeating spectacle,” he said.

National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah urged the government to take major steps in de-escalating the war.

“We have friends in the US and friends in Russia and that is one of the biggest things we have achieved from Nehru’s time.

“I would request the foreign minister and through him, to the prime minister, that we must take major steps, not small steps, but major steps in de-escalating that war and finishing that war. Unless we do that, we will not be able to tell the future generations that India played its part,” Abdullah said.

NCP Supriya Sule raised the issue of violation of human rights in Ukraine.

She said that irrespective of India’s stance on this crisis, the “genocide that was taking place in Ukraine was unpardonable”.

Hitting back at opposition leaders who suggested that the government had tried to take credit for the evacuation of Indians, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju asserted that the ministers were sent as it was a major operation.

“It is our responsibility (to bring back stranded Indians) and the prime minister sent ministers as the scale of the operation was big… Had we sent a joint secretary, the response there (Ukraine’s neighbours) would also be from a joint secretary. When ministers go, the response is at that level,” said Rijiju.

Congress’ Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor asked the government to use its influence to mediate a truce between Russia and Ukraine, engaged in a war for over 40 days.

Referring to the softly-worded statements on the Russia-Ukraine war at the United Nations, the Thiruvananthapuram MP said, “We need to take a principled stand on such matters… with moral conviction.” Appreciating ‘Operation Ganga’ under which 18,000 students were brought home from war-ravaged Ukraine, he said some embassies were probably quicker in evacuating their citizens and hence there are lessons to be learnt for India.

Tharoor said it was unfortunate that students stranded in war-hit Ukraine had to walk long distances to reach the bordering nations from where they were transported back to India.

BJD MP Pinaki Misra praised the government for not yielding to hectoring by the US on the Russia-Ukraine war issue.

He said it was the US that used nuclear weapons and has a history of waging wars in several countries including Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Misra also asked the Indian government to mediate a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine.

Trinamool leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay wanted to know the status of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “promise” that returning students were likely to be absorbed in colleges in Hungary.

Thamizhachi Thangapandian of the DMK urged the government to play the role of an honest negotiator in ending the ongoing conflict. PTI TEAM SKU SKU RT RT

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

Source: The Print

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