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Tuesday July 16, 2024

A perpetual war

By Maheen Shafeeq
March 27, 2023

The predictions made at the onset of the Ukraine war were impulsive. Many intelligence reports assumed that Ukraine would fall and Russia was headed for a quick and decisive victory.

Unfortunately, these predictions were more fluid than the goals of the war. One year later, the war is still ongoing, with military aid pouring in Ukraine while Russian defence production complexes are working round the clock to support the continuation of the war.

Russia’s desire to control Kyiv, Donbas and southern Ukraine and coerce it to distance itself from the West and Nato has not been fulfilled. Many analysts believe that Russia anticipates exhausting the enemy to win the war. At the same time, they contemplate that Ukraine has outdone itself by fighting back and demonstrating a strong will to defend the nation.

Analysts feel that it seems as if Russia and Ukraine will fight for as long as necessary and are willing to continue the war, no matter the cost. However, both these assumptions are faulty in conception. Both Russia and Ukraine cannot afford to prolong the war.

Ukraine and Russia quickly latched on to China’s proposal for a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis realized in February 2023. Although the peace proposal received a lukewarm reaction from the West due to the trust deficit, the warring sides asked for more details.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wanted a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, while the Russian foreign ministry disclosed that any attempts to transform the conflict into a peaceful course deserved consideration.

This month, a three-day state visit to Russia by the president of China was observed as a bold endeavour to end frictions in Europe after a diplomatic triumph in the Middle East. The joint statement realized during the visit shows Russia is committing to peace talks. This could be a green light to peace. Nevertheless, both Russia and Ukraine have several legitimate security concerns that need to be addressed if any peace plan is to be successful.

Beijing’s initiative is the first straw extended to put the brakes on the rollercoaster of a conflict that has jolted the world. Before this, in March 2022, the two warring sides tried to negotiate in the Istanbul Process, which could not achieve a positive outcome, and the war continued. Many Western analysts consider that the war would have a nasty end, which, given the current momentum of the war, has merits.

Experts at Cambridge University have predicted that peace settlement remains “very unlikely” in the near future. Under the present hostilities, solid peace proposals or steps towards a peaceful settlement by the international community are nowhere in sight. The end of the Ukraine war could be possible through a political settlement, including negotiations, or an armistice agreement that would cease the active hostilities between the two sides.

A peace process would also need the presence of the US and the West as they have shown dissatisfaction over the Chinese proposed solution. Neutral countries such as Pakistan, China, India and the African states, must chip in to support ending the war. India has close ties with Russia and the US, while Pakistan maintains healthy relations with China, the US, Russia and Ukraine.

Pakistan has fully supported the UN resolution that calls for respect of states’ sovereignty and territorial integrity. Islamabad has opted for neutrality to support the peace process since the start of the war.

Pakistan’s neutrality is very different from India’s. While Pakistan has consistently pushed for an immediate peaceful resolution, India, despite having an excellent chance to push for a settlement of the Ukraine war as it hosted the foreign ministers at the G20 meeting, tried to divert the attention from the Ukraine war to other subjects such as climate change and developing countries’ debt. Although these are important subjects of discussion, having the two foreign ministers, Russian and American, at one table was a golden opportunity that should have been utilised adequately.

Working towards a peace plan under a constrained environment will be an Herculean task, but efforts must be put in as the war heavily impacts the world. The international community must play its role in ending the war by defusing the situation instead of amplifying it. The future course of war remains uncertain and unpredictable as the war has been full of surprises. However, the world needs to learn to co-exist and respect each other.

The writer is a research analyst in emerging technologies and

international security. She tweets @MaheenShafeeq