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Poland Minister Marcin Przydacz sees India’s ‘positive’ role amid Ukraine-Russia crisis

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Poland Minister Marcin Przydacz sees India’s ‘positive’ role amid Ukraine-Russia crisis
Poland's Deputy head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Marcin Przydacz (File Photo)

Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz sees India’s role positively amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis. Without taking Moscow’s name, Przydacz said, “You have relatively good relations with those countries, as I said, there is a possibility of involvement of India in diplomacy”.  

The West is worried over a Russian invasion of Ukraine something that Moscow has been dismissing. Speaking to WION’s diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal from Warsaw, Minister Przydacz said, “India is one of the most important actors in the international scene, the biggest democracy”.

On Poland hosting Ukrainian refugees, the minister pointed, “Poland, as the neighboring country, needs to be ready to host possible refugees. As always, we are ready to help those who are in need but hopefully it won’t happen.” Poland shares a border with Ukraine and also the Russian territory of Kaliningrad. On Taiwan he said, while his country “sticks to one-China policy” at “economical level, we are ready to cooperate with Taipei”. 

Russia/Ukraine crisis

Sidhant Sibal: How do you see the current situation in eastern Europe? The last few days have been dramatic. Your FM was in Moscow. How do you assess the situation?

Marcin Przydacz: It is very important for us, for the Poles, to share our assessment and perspective with the Indian public. Your country is a very important actor in the international scene, so it is of crucial importance for us to share our perspective and opinions with you. With regards to the current situation in central and eastern, as you have probably seen. Russia is continuing its aggressive posturing and policy towards Ukraine and other countries in this region. 

More than 100,000 troops deployed just next to the Ukrainian border, there is a kind of pressure on the Ukrainian state. The expectation from the Russian side is to somehow stop the possible integration of Ukraine with the European Union, with NATO. With pro-western orientation, Ukraine is one of the biggest countries of the post-soviet era. Russia is not happy with the fact that Ukraine is doing better and better with regard to cooperation with the West. The living standard of the country has not dropped but increased and it could be a very bad example for the Russian government. One day Russian public opinion may ask how it happened that the Ukrainian nation is doing better than the Russian one. So, the Russian govt is trying to build some kind of sphere of influence and to build as the said Soviet empire. He once said the collapse of the Soviet Union is the biggest tragedy of 21st century so his strategy is to rebuild but unfortunately it is at the cost of sovereign independent countries– Belarus, Georgia, and Ukraine. We cannot allow that to happen. To rebuild the soviet empire based on not very democratic rules. Poland is very much in favour of peaceful cooperation, stability, and it should be up to the Ukrainian nation, society to decide what is the future of their own country. 

Sidhant Sibal: Do you think the war clouds have dissipated?

Marcin Przydacz: What we are very interested in is the final decision of withdrawing those troops rather than only announcing it. Once the troops will be sent back home then we will welcome such a decision. So far, we have not noticed the de-escalation, rather escalation. Even yesterday, Ukrainian state organization, Ukraine’s banking system was attacked in the sphere of cyber. This aggressive behavior of Russia continues rather than the said de-escalation. We are very much in favour of de-escalation, waiting for a concrete decision rather than only talking. Diplomats are very much interested in discussing how to find a solution, not at any cost. We cannot compromise on international regulation; we cannot compromise of a democratic free world, being diplomats, of course, we are ready to continue the dialogue. That is why minister Rau, the Polish foreign affairs minister yesterday paid a visit to Moscow to discuss a possible solution. We are the chairman of the OSCE or Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe this year, so we do have some kind of responsibility for the security in Europe, ready to discuss and talks to Russians but the first decision we are expecting from our Russian neighbour is to withdraw troops from the border of Ukraine, from the territory of Belarus. More than 30,000 Belarus troops are actively exercising on the territory of Belarus, just next to the Ukraine and Polish border. This is pressure by the Russian state on the Ukraine government, so that is why we had to ask our American allies to deploy NATO troops to Poland. That is why we are discussing possible sanctioning of Russia in case of further escalation. We need to be ready as the free world, democratic society, community of the free world. 

Sidhant Sibal: On Poland fears influx which could go up to 2-3 million, how is Poland geared up to tackle?

Marcin Przydacz: We still do hope that the situation will deescalate, there will be no incursion, no Russian attack on sovereign country Ukraine. We are doing our best in order to find a solution. We need to be prepared for a possible migration, a possible wave of refugees from Ukraine to Poland. We are trying to be ready, discussing it at the national level but also international level on how to deal with that. But so far, we should avoid the panic inside the Ukrainian state and that is also the decision of the Ukrainian govt to stabilize the situation, not to panic. As far as I understand and as far as I know Ukrainian people, they are ready to resist and defend their independence and sovereignty of their country, not thinking about fleeing the country but of course, this happens, Poland as the neighboring country need to be ready to host possible refugees. As always, we are ready to help those who are in need but hopefully it won’t happen. 

Sidhant Sibal: On Russia’s demand for demilitarization of states like Poland and other eastern European countries.

Marcin Przydacz: Let me remind you of the history of the last 20 years, it was not Poland or NATO countries attacking other countries. NATO is the defense ally, it was Russia dominating other countries. For example, in Belarus, Russia recently deployed its troops, in Kazakhstan, in Armenia, Azerbaijan. In 2008, Russia attacked the independent state of Georgia capturing or taking some part of the territories of this country. In 2014, Russia took Crimea and part of Donbas. We are very much concerned with this aggressive policy conducted by the Russian government. That is why we are deploying as NATO troops on the territory of NATO countries. We are not interested in sending them anywhere else. Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, that was the decision of our govts to invite more allies in order to continue the policy of deterrence. What we want to show, is to deter Russia and to show them we are ready to defend our country and we are ready to deter this aggressive policy of Russia. 


Sidhant Sibal: What role do you see for India in the crisis, in terms of pacifying the crisis?

Marcin Przydacz: As I said, India is one of the most important actors in the international scene, the biggest democracy. It has also the potential to have a positive impact, positive influence on security architecture. Both of our countries are very much profiting from the fact that this security architecture has been stabilizing, global situation. Some countries, starting from Russia, are trying to challenge this architecture to change. These are authoritarian regimes. What we need to do, democratic states do, to continue our cooperation, continue dialogue. You have relatively good relations with those countries, as I said, there is a possibility of the involvement of India in diplomacy. We are very much interested in continuing our dialogue. Already talks, visits of your officials. Three years ago Minister Jaishankar was in Poland and also the situation in Eastern and Central Europe. Minister Rau was at the Raisina dialogue conference. I hope there will be a continuation of good talks, discussing how to deal with those threats and challenges based on international law, to find a way to coexist.  

Sidhant Sibal: How do you see India-Poland relationship? How do you characterize it?

Marcin Przydacz: I welcome the current state of relations, they are developing well. Despite the pandemic, the political contact remains good. It proves that our ties are close and still have potential for further development. I hope more consultations will happen at a higher level. There are good foundations to ties. We still very much remember the fact that a great significant number of Polish migrants, refugees from Siberia during World War 2 were hosted by the Indian population, high officials. Several thousand Indian students in Poland, significant Polish business community in your country. We need to bring back direct flights between Warsaw and New Delhi, Warsaw and Mumbai. As you know a couple of years ago we launched a new direct flight by LOT Polish airline, directly from Warsaw to Delhi and I had the pleasure to open this flight but unfortunately due to the pandemic, we have to stop this direct connection but I do really hope we bring it back in order to offer our citizens to have a better people to people contact because this is the most important thing in the relations of the country. More Indian students, business people are very much welcomed in Poland and also the Polish business community will be welcomed in significant numbers in your country. Finally, in Poland, we have big fans of your movies, cinema industry. There have been several films shot in Poland and we do hope this will be continued. 

Sidhant Sibal: How do you see the cultural connection, recently a Polish national was honored with the top Indian award, the Padma award?

Marcin Przydacz: As I said, Bollywood is very much popular in Poland and we do hope that we will find even more opportunities to explore this part of our relations. You mentioned, the former envoy of Poland was granted a very important prize in India. Those academicians, politicians or diplomats their work, job is very much acknowledged by the Indian govt, Indian society. We need to find more opportunities in order to explore this part of our relations. Poles are very much interested in Indian culture.


Sidhant Sibal: How much is the worry over Belarus migrant issue for you? Has it subsided or is it still underway?

Marcin Przydacz: Well, you should not call it a crisis, it was an artificial crisis, very well planned by the authoritarian regime of Mr Lukashenko. After elections, he was sanctioned by the European Union and his answer, he said it publicly that he will create the refugee or migration crisis that is why he encouraged many possible migrants from the Middle East countries, from the Asian countries in order to come to Belarus and they were forcibly pushed to the border with Poland, Lithuania illegally in order to cross this border. Unfortunately, those people found themselves in a very difficult and dire situation. In winter they got stuck in a forest, legally on the territory of Belarus but basically being bullets in the hands of the authoritarian regime of Mr Lukashenko. This crisis is not over yet, hundreds of migrants are in the hands of Lukashenko, waiting for the right moment to be pushed through the border. Let me also tell you or the Indian society, beware of the fact that being invited to Belarus means you can be used as a bullet in the hands of an authoritarian regime and pushed through the border. I know Belarus diplomats are very actively searching for new possibilities to bring innocent people to Belarus and then use them as political instruments against the EU, Poland. We would not like to have this with the friendly nation of India. 


Sidhant Sibal: How do you see the Polish role or policy on the Indo Pacific, when countries like Germany and France have been taking a lead?

Marcin Przydacz: Well, first of all, after regaining full sovereignty and independence, after the collapse of the soviet union, we have joined NATO, EU and the natural environment for us was to be very concentrated on EU Affairs, transatlantic affairs. Now our economy is doing very well, we are in a much better position than 30 years ago. So, a lot of business people are interested in finding a place to invest in the Indo Pacific area. Our diplomats have been quite active in your region. We are reopening our embassies. In New Delhi, it was opened years ago but recently in several countries of your region we opened embassies. There is also room for better relations with countries of the Indo-Pacific. I know China is trying to challenge several things, in the Indo-Pacific area, we have been trying to be active as well to keep the stability through the instruments we have bilaterally. At the level of the EU, we have the Indo-Pacific strategy, we as Poland are very active in this discussion. Asia is the continent of 21st century. With huge potential, Poland is trying to be active at every possible level–diplomatic, political, economic cooperation and cultural collaboration. 


Sidhant Sibal: China has been aggressive in Indo Pacific; how do you see Chinese actions in the region? 

Marcin Przydacz: We stick to the One China policy, as Poland and there are a lot of challenges with regards to China but what is crucial is to keep the dialogue discussing all those issues which are problematic, just like with others. We know that India is in very good contact with Moscow although we do not prescribe Moscow’s behavior very constructive in our region, let me put that diplomatically.  W are also trying to be active in keeping the dialogue with Beijing. Our President visited China during the Olympics, to encourage our sportsmen mostly but on the margin, he had a good and frank discussion with President Xi Jinping. So our relations with China are vivid and potential in economic cooperation but there are some issues which need to be discussed and solved and we as Poland are ready to be an active actor in regard to that. 


Sidhant Sibal: Many in Europe, including your neighbour Lithuania have upgraded ties with Taiwan. Do you plan a deeper engagement and upgradation with the country?

Marcin Przydacz: Well as I said we stick to the one-China policy, but we can respect the decision of every sovereign country to have their own interest and own ideas to conduct foreign policy. It was the Lithuanian decision to follow those principles of their interest. But what I can say with regards to Taiwan, we are trying to find new possibilities on how to encourage our business people to cooperate with Taiwan. Taiwan is a big economy, there is potential at the economic level. Of course, at an economical level, we are ready to cooperate with Taipei.

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