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The Mahabharata, Ukraine Crisis And Way Forward – OpEd

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Shakuni, was the prince of the Gandhara Kingdom, which is the present-day Kandahar in Afghanistan. He is famed for being one of the pivotal negative characters of the epic Mahabharata – a villain, who is believed to have veritably changed the landscape of the epic. Shakuni is the maternal uncle of Duryodhana (the eldest son of Dhritarashtra and the leader of the Kauravas), and also the central negative character in the Mahabharata. Shakuni was extremely intelligent and equally devious as well. Often it is said that he was the mastermind behind the great war of Mahabharata in Kurukshetra (Bharat-India).

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Recently Ukrainian Ambassador Igor Polikha urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene to de-escalate the Ukrainian crisis citing Mahabharata and urged the Indian Prime Minister to pursue diplomacy with President Putin and help Ukraine get out of this devastating situation. 

Polikha said, “India had qualified in diplomacy through Kautilya, Chanakya several thousand years ago when Europe had no civilization. India is an influential global player and for many years, was the leader of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which was created at the time of the cold war.”  

Polikha added: “At present, we are pleading for political assistance from India. Modi is one of the most powerful leaders of the world and has a special partnership with Russia … I don’t know how many world leaders Putin would pay heed to, but due to the rapport Modi shares, I am hopeful that the Russian President would at least consider his words. We are expecting a much more favourable attitude from the Indian government.”

With regard to current events in Ukraine, special significance can be found in the Mahabharata. It is said that if the Kauravas had obeyed Shri Krishna at this time, then the Kurukshetra war could have been averted. In such a situation, it is said that there has always been a tradition to send a peace proposal regarding the war and Ukraine is also referring to this incident and praying to India to become a peacemaker so that this dispute can be ended.

The war of Mahabharata itself is the essence of the world, which tells about many aspects related to life. It was during the war of Mahabharata that Lord Krishna told Arjuna the essence of Gita. The war of Mahabharata was the most fierce in the world. In this war between the Kauravas and the Pandas, crores of warriors were killed on both sides.

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In this Ukraine Crisis the US has outrightly played the role similar to Shakuni in Mahabharata. The major difference in that war of Mahabharata between the Kauravas and the Pandavas is that the kingdoms took sides along with the Kings and their armies committing themselves physically on the Kurukshetra battlefield unlike the US, NATO and EU forces unwilling to commit boots on the ground. However, in hindsight though by default it has been a good action, if there would have been US and NATO forces in Ukraine it could have led to aEuropean war which could have led to a world war culminating into a nuclear war.

Recent history of invasions, incursions or call it by any other term, and the misadventures of the superpowers remind us that getting in is easier in a country (at times even welcomed), but getting out is far more difficult. The Soviets in Afghanistan and the Americans in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan are all examples of prolonged stays and heavy costs borne by the Americans, Soviets and to the countries intruded into. It took years of not knowing how to end the conflicts and withdrawing unilaterally after failing to achieve their goals. A prolonged war will result in more misery, large-scale destruction and casualties. The economic collapse of Ukraine is certain. Now it will be for Putin to take the call for the right time to depart gracefully having achieved his aims at the earliest, likely by a regime change.

From the very beginning, it’s a bitter result of the US strategic selfishness — as early as 1998 the US Senate approved NATO’s eastward expansion plan. The struggle in Ukraine is a drive for control by the US and expansion of NATO and US hegemony, which have undermined international law and the UN.

Americans have always thought of making profits from crises having incited conflicts and reaped benefits. The US shows no consideration for the suffering of the locals pushed into the forefront. Afghanistan and Iraq are recent examples. The US often talks about humanity, justice and morality by calculating its interests.  The US, UK, Germany and other European countries are sending warlike stores and weapons to Ukraine, but how are they going to reach the fighting Ukraine troops who are surrounded by the Russian forces. Who are going to fire the new weapon systems? Miscalculated and delated Western support!

Enough articles have appeared on US interests having incited conflicts the world over and are not being repeated here. The US has proved to be an unreliable and untrustworthy partner in most cases. The Ukraine crisis has proved the point beyond doubt and Biden is truly playing a similar role of Shakuni as in the Mahabharata war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video speech complained that the US and Western countries have abandoned Ukraine and left it to defend itself alone. Where is the US been, which said it “stands with Ukraine?” Washington simply said it “will support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country,” and “will provide humanitarian relief to ease their suffering” … “I support you, keep fighting!” 

The Way Forward:

● Foremost is that Russia should put a stop to any further offensive action for the process of negotiations to continue.

● For Ukraine to avoid a showdown and still survive with grace is not to join the West (US-NATO) or the East and remain neutral, but it has to remain in contact with their centuries old sibling the Russians. Honestly, a neutral Ukraine would be in everyone’s interest. It would be ideal for the stability of Europe and the world at large. Finland, Austria and Switzerland are the best examples of neutral nations. All these countries are prosperous and have strong economies and high standards of living. Ukraine as a neutral state can achieve that.

● Ukraine for the safety of the people and the country needs to provide a written agreement that Ukraine will not try to be part of NATO or any other alliances working against the interests of Russia.

● US and NATO should keep away from expanding East into traditional areas of the Soviet Union or of Russian influence. Ukraine has been with Russia for centuries having nearly the same culture. The US and NATO should pledge no further eastward expansion and return to the Minsk-2 agreement for ending the war between Ukraine and Russia.

The world, and Europe in particular, cannot afford a nuclear catastrophe having already experienced the two world wars. A peaceful, neutral Ukraine is the best hope for Europe and the world. Everyone has condemned what Russia’s Putin has done against the weaker Ukraine sibling. Moscow has violated international law by invading a sovereign state. Once again in this civilized world  ‘Might is Right’ has been proved right by Russia — and this cannot be tolerated.  Nevertheless, the blame for the Ukraine crisis has to be shared by the US and NATO allies. The Ukrainian democratically elected pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in that country. Now it appears it’s Moscow’s turn to do a regime change from position of strength.

In spite of the fact that Ukraine has a history of anti-India stance and always supported Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister Modi still spoke to Russian President Putin to initiate diplomatic peace talks with Ukraine.

Patial RC

Patial RC is a retired Infantry officer of the Indian Army and possesses unique experience of serving in active CI Ops across the country and in Sri Lanka. Patial RC is a regular writer on military and travel matters in military professional journals. The veteran is a keen mountaineer and a trekker.

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