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India’s role ‘especially important’ for peace between Russia & Ukraine, says Austrian Chancellor

Narendra Modi, 1st Indian leader in 41 years to visit Austria, met Chancellor Karl Nehammer in Vienna Wednesday, discussed Russia-Ukraine war, situation in West Asia & economic ties.

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New Delhi: India as the biggest democracy in the world has an “especially important” role in the Russia-Ukraine peace process and at all future peace summits, said Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer after his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Vienna Wednesday.

“For me, it was an important signal that India, as a founding member of the BRICS organisation, participated in the Swiss Peace Summit at Bürgenstock. India is the biggest democracy in the world, and therefore, India’s role, especially for Austria, is more than important, when it comes to the peace process and future peace summits,” said Nehammer in a joint statement to the press with PM Modi.

The Austrian chancellor added, “Today we have been talking about an even stronger commitment and about possibilities of reviving the peace process. Prime Minister Modi and myself discussed the unique position of India in the so-called Global South. India is an important, influential and credit-worthy country.”

The first visit by an Indian prime minister to Austria in 41 years came a day after Modi met with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in Moscow, where he reiterated his call for peace, declaring that a solution between Russia and Ukraine cannot be “found on the battlefield”.

In his statement to the press Wednesday in Vienna, the Indian prime minister emphasised his stance, pointing out that the building, where the press statements were being given, was the very hall where the “Congress of Vienna gave a direction of peace to Europe”.

“This hall where we are standing is very historic. In the 19th century, the historic Vienna Congress was hosted here. That conference provided direction for peace and stability in Europe… I have said before that this is not a time for war. Problems cannot be solved on the battlefield. The loss of innocent lives, anywhere, is unacceptable,” said Modi during his statement to the press.

Modi’s flight to Vienna from Moscow was also one of the few to make the direct trip from Russia to Western Europe, since the “special military operation” against Ukraine began. Moscow has since been heavily sanctioned by European countries, and has found itself outside of the international financial framework with barred access to its markets.

Austria, while a member of the European Union (EU), is not a member of the Western-led military alliance North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which was created 75 years ago to balance against the USSR.

Nehammer recalled how this neutrality had come to be and India’s role in it. He explained that in 1953, after the end of World War II, the Allied powers (US, UK, France and the USSR), which occupied Austria, had come to a standstill on the future of the country.

“The situation was difficult, it was difficult to make progress. It was [Austrian] Foreign Minister [Karl] Gruber, who contacted Prime Minister [Jawaharlal] Nehru, asking for support in the negotiations to bring them to a positive conclusion. This is what happened. India helped Austria and the negotiations came to a positive conclusion with the Austrian State Treaty,” explained Nehammer.

After the last Allied troops left the country in 1955, the Austrian Parliament declared itself a neutral country — a stance, Nehammer highlighted, it could play to help bring peace to the Russia-Ukraine war.

Also Read: Modi wraps up visit to Russia with emphasis on peace, inks 9 bilateral agreements

‘Strategic direction’ to bilateral ties

Modi said that after this visit, a “strategic direction” has been given to India-Austria ties. The two leaders also highlighted the different areas of discussions, including the sectors of trade and investment, green energy, science and technology, artificial intelligence, the environment and climate change.

“It is particularly important for Austria, a strongly export-oriented country, to find new forms of economic cooperation. There are excellent economic and trade relations with India. EUR 2.7 billion is the current trade volume. More than 150 Austrian businesses are operating in India and we expect the number to increase,” said Nehammer. 

The Austrian chancellor added, “There is high demand for economic cooperation, particularly when it comes to renewable energy and environment, urban development and infrastructure development.”

Austria is the second country Modi has visited for bilateral talks so far after Russia in his third term as prime minister.

(Edited by Mannat Chugh)

Also Read: Ukraine’s Zelenskyy slams Modi-Putin hug, calls its huge ‘disappointment’, ‘devastating blow’

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