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Ukraine criticized over ‘Hinduphobia’ ahead of foreign minister’s India visit

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has announced that he will visit India later this week, drawing parallels between the ongoing conflict and India’s struggle for independence from British colonial rule led by Mahatma Gandhi.

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The comparison didn’t go down well with many Indians on social media, who reminded Kiev of its stance against New Delhi in the United Nations (UN) and raked up a controversy over its defense ministry’s use of an image of Indian goddess Kali in a propaganda post last year. At the time, the distorted image of the Indian deity triggered outrage in India. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry later apologized and the post was taken down.

Reacting to Kuleba’s post on Monday, announcing his upcoming visit to India, many Indian users once again reminded Kiev of last year’s incident. 

Commenters posted screenshots of the Ukrainian military’s now-deleted post on Kali and called out Ukraine over its alleged “hypocrisy.” “We haven’t forgotten your government official’s comment on India and its people and Hinduphobic tweets,” one person wrote. “You guys mocked our Goddess Kali. If you are really a democracy, you never mock on others’ religious sentiments,” another said. 

Meanwhile, Kuleba claimed that supporting Ukraine means supporting “freedom and independence,” linking this to the legacy of Gandhi. Some commenters responded to this by claiming  that Gandhi, known for his non-violent approach to resolving conflict, would have urged Ukraine to negotiate with Russia.

Observers also recalled another controversy last year, in which Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, triggered outrage by claiming that India and China exhibit “weak intellectual potential” and “fail to analyze the consequences of their actions.”

The dismissive remarks related to Beijing and New Delhi’s refusal to support Kiev in its conflict with Moscow. Podoliak complained that India, China and Türkiye were “profiting” from the war by maintaining trade with Russia.

“The hatred displayed towards India and Hinduism [by Ukraine] remains unforgettable. This hostility is utterly unacceptable,” one person wrote on X, responding to Kuleba’s latest post.

Others recalled that Kiev has a complicated history with New Delhi. For instance, it condemned India’s nuclear test in 1998, claiming it endangered “existing international arrangements for nuclear non-proliferation.” Others reminded Kuleba of India’s enduring relationship with Russia and expressed “support” for Moscow.

Media reports last week suggested that Kiev wanted India to participate in a proposed peace conference in Switzerland later this year, which could be the key item on the agenda for Kuleba’s visit. New Delhi remains skeptical over whether a peace summit without Russia’s participation would be effective, Bloomberg reported, citing officials. India continues to maintain strong political and economic ties with Moscow despite Western pressure, and has repeatedly stressed that the Ukraine conflict must be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue.

Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the Ukraine conflict with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. During a telephone call with the Ukrainian leader, Modi said he had conveyed “India’s consistent support for all efforts for peace and bringing an early end to the ongoing conflict.”

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