There can be several perspectives for examining the deeply worrying situation in Ukraine, but if one examines this mainly from the point of view of the welfare of the people of Ukraine, then securing peace immediately must be the foremost objective. At the same time one has to reckon with the fact there are many serious differences between the two sides.
Hence keeping in view both these factors – the urgent need for peace as well as the prevalence of serious differences – the best course of action today would be acceptance of an unconditional ceasefire by both sides on the basis of the existing line of control.
This should be followed by a huge community-based, participative, decentralised programme for rehabilitation and reconstruction in Ukraine with decisions and priorities under the democratic control of people but helped by unconditional international financial support.
The mistakes made in the past in some war-ravaged countries of handing over reconstruction to some giant foreign construction companies should not be repeated as in such cases community needs and priorities often get neglected.
Once a big reconstruction effort is in place, talks between Ukraine and Russia should start to settle various contentious issues and areas of difference. Generally, it is said in the case of peace talks that they should progress very fast to sort out all differences.
If this is possible in the present context it would of course be great. But let us be realistic. If these talks had been held about a year back, then the possibility of clinching an early agreement on various differences would have been much higher. However the situation now is much more complex.
An early resolution of various differences, particularly on territory issues, would be difficult to achieve. So let us not start with unrealistic expectations.
It would be more realistic to have a rather modest but more achievable objective. The talks can take breaks, but should not break down. They should start with the understanding that some issues are very difficult but at the same time peace between the two neighbours is even more important and so solutions have to be found.
Even when some talks drag out for a long time these are not necessarily a failure and if both sides are careful to conclude each round of talks with some friendly voices then the contribution of talks to at least increasing goodwill is always there. With the passage of time, with reconstruction progressing, with people on both sides making efforts to create more friendly conditions, feelings of hostility begin to fade, people want peace to continue and are more in tune with the give and take necessary for settling contentious issues and serious differences.
The historical and cultural ties that the people of the two countries have will also no doubt contribute to the peace process over a longer period of time. Hence clearly the path of peace is possible in Ukraine as long as this is given a fair chance and is not obstructed by any powerful forces. This path of peace is the best option today from the point of view of the welfare of the people of Ukraine. It is best achieved by an unconditional ceasefire followed by reconstruction and extended negotiations to resolve other differences.
This peace process can be helped by countries like Turkey, India, Mexico and Brazil which can hope to have the confidence of both sides and have shown some interest in the peace process in the past. While this course of action is clearly the best from the point of view of the welfare of the people of Ukraine, at the same the great importance of such a plan of action from the perspective of world peace should also be asserted.
It has become increasingly clear over the course of the last 15 months or so that the ongoing Ukraine war has become the biggest crisis threatening world peace and under certain conditions it can even lead to a more open conflict between the USA and Russia – the two biggest military powers of the world which together possess over 11,000 nuclear weapons.
This can even create conditions for a Third World War type situation, as pointed out by several eminent scholars. Hence it is important to stop the Ukraine war as early as possible as each day of the war leads to more devastation and more complications, making solutions more difficult.
Hence both from the point of view of the welfare of the people of Ukraine as well as for the sake of world peace, it is very important to end the Ukraine war as early as possible and start walking the path of peace.
(The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril and A Day in 2071.)