EAM S Jaishankar has expressed very deep concern over the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, while expressing "very deep" concern over the ongoing Ukraine conflict, said that India is on the side of peace and has urged Ukraine and Russia to return to dialogue and diplomacy.

Jaishankar, who arrived Vienna from Cyprus on the second leg of his two-nation tour, made the remarks while addressing the members of the Indian diaspora.

"This (Ukraine) conflict is really a matter of very, very deep concernĂ¢€¦ Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared in September (that) we actually genuinely believe that this is no longer an era of war. You cannot settle differences and issues through violence,” news agency PTI quoted Jaishankar as saying.

"So from the very beginning, our effort has been to urge (Russia and Ukraine) to return to dialogue and diplomacy. The Prime Minister himself has spoken on numerous occasions with President Vladimir Putin and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. I myself talked to my colleagues in Russia and Ukraine,” he said.

“We know this is not (an) easily resolvable situation. But it's important that countries who believe (in)...negotiation, speak up clearly in that regard," he said, adding that "we're on the side of peace and a large part of the world thinks like us.”

India has, from time to time, called on Russia and Ukraine to return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue to end their ongoing conflict.

In his bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Uzbekistan on September 16, 2022, Modi said "today's era is not of war" and urged him to end the conflict. However, India has not yet criticised the Russian attack on Ukraine and has been maintaining that the crisis should be resolved through dialogue.

Jaishankar also told the audience that there are profound changes in India's national security. "Much of it is centred around the intense challenges we face on our northern border with China. We continue to have the problem of cross-border terrorism with Pakistan,” he said.

Indian and Chinese troops clashed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh on December 9, 2022, and a few personnel from both sides received minor injuries.

The ties between the two countries have remained frozen since the fierce face-off in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 with India making it clear that peace and tranquillity at the border is the sine qua non for the overall development of bilateral ties.

Relations between India and Pakistan have often been strained over the Kashmir issue and cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

Jaishankar also noted that India has vastly improved its relationship with Bangladesh. "We have settled our land boundary agreement with them. It's an example of how successful diplomacy has directly contributed to a stronger relationship,” he said.

In his speech, Jaishankar also said that India and Austria would sign some agreements on Monday and some of them are of interest to Indian diaspora - one on migration and mobility for Indians who want to come here as students/professionals and another on 'Working Holiday' programme which will enable Indian students in Austria to work for six months.

This is the first EAM-level visit from India to Austria in the last 27 years, and it takes place against the backdrop of 75 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 2023.