PM Modi has been receiving wide acclaim from all quarters including the Western media which is otherwise excessively harsh on him, for his relatively bold comments to President Putin at the recently concluded SCO summit. Wherein the PM, in a seemingly friendly way, but very publicly stated to Putin that today's era is not an era of war.
The PM also thanked both Russia as well as Ukraine for their help in evacuating nearly 20,000 Indian medical students under 'Operation Ganga', who had been stuck in the war zone since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Feb-March.
Naturally, there's been a lot of spotlight on the reasons for the PM's brave comments including the need for diplomatic balancing vis-à-vis the West due to the long duration of the conflict & the possible signaling by the US s by way of approving the F-16's upgrade to Pakistan. It also indicates the need for India to ramp up the pressure on Russia to end the conflict, possibly a few more domestic reasons also exist that attracted a lot of attention initially but have since receded from public memory but are important to take note of.
Ukraine-Returned Indian Students Hang by a Thread
The Hon'ble Supreme Court has recently ruled, and very rightly so that the estimated 20 thousand or so medical students who had returned from Ukraine midway in their courses cannot be accommodated in Indian Colleges for further continuation of their studies as this would open a huge Pandora's box due to the inherent backdoor nature of entry that this would be.
There is also no legal basis to enable the National Medical Commission(NMC) to allow this even as a one-time event. Therefore, the future of thousands of medical students and their families who are all essentially middle class, has been hanging in a very delicate balance since over six months now.
Given the kind of profession, it is also simply impossible for medical studies to be conducted online for any significant period, nor would it be possible for the NMC to grant any kind of recognition to such degree holders. Therefore, the Prime Minister is acutely aware that enough time has passed and the Russian invasion while having helped save crucial forex on oil is also now beginning to hamper certain domestic interests beyond an acceptable point.
That the Government of India has made the interests of its citizens a non-negotiable center piece of its foreign policy approach & also won plaudits for it from many quarters including from even surprising ones is very well known by now.
Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the Prime Minister would not have liked to having been seen as being ignorant of an issue affecting so many students & their families, and thus could also be one of the reasons amongst many others that seem to have forced his hand to take a more public approach.
Career Dilemmas of Thousands Need Swift Resolution
Having said that, and credit where due, it would also be more prudent for the Government of India to be ready with some deft solutions to ensure any further potential harm to the careers of these students is mitigated as much as possible.
The Supreme Court has also instructed the Government to come up with a portal for ease of transfer to different foreign universities for completion of studies of these students. There are also reports that some students have started to return to Colleges in Western Ukraine where so far the situation has been relatively safer.
A time-bound framing of portal and counselling of students with constant support & inputs from the Health & Foreign Ministries as well as NMC is extremely important so that students do not end up making any wrong choices in any way.
It is quite well known that many students who were in Ukraine have been slightly reluctant to take transfers to other Eastern European Universities due to higher costs and to Russia due to the nature of the conflict.
It is, therefore , expected and much needed that Finance Ministry reduces the interest rates on education loans to enable maximum students to take transfers to safer countries and continue with their education. India has education loans with unacceptably high interest rates and these anyways must be reduced, but especially for these students and in a situation like this it is critical to do this on an urgent basis.
While India has shown that it is willing to walk the diplomatic tight rope, some deft maneuvering & further planning will go a long way to ensure adequate breathing space in the corridors of power at the highest levels