Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets Indian counterpart S Jaishankar
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Friday, a day after the US warned of "consequences" for attempting to "circumvent" its sanctions against Moscow amid the Russia-Ukraine war. "India has always been in favor of resolving differences and disputes through dialogue and diplomacy," said Jaishankar, reiterating India's position on the issue. Lavrov meanwhile appreciated India's independent, neutral foreign policy.
- Notably, this is the first Indo-Russian bilateral meeting after Russia's invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.
- "Our meeting today takes place in a difficult international environment," Jaishankar said at the meeting.
- The high-level talks also took place in the wake of reports that India could buy larger quantities of discounted Russian oil and both sides were eager to establish a ruble-rupee trade agreement.
On Friday, talking about the possibility of India acting as a mediator in the Russia-Ukraine crisis, Lavrov stated, "India is an important and serious country." He further said, "If India plays that role that provides resolution, India as our common partner...we are for the security guarantee of Ukraine... The West has ignored its responsibility... India can support such a process."
"We are ready to supply whatever India wants to buy from Russia... We are ready to discuss and reach mutually acceptable cooperation," Lavrov said after the meeting. A Bloomberg report said Russia is offering its flagship Urals grade to India at discounts of up to $35/barrel on the pre-war prices. To start with, Russia wants India to take 15 million barrels for this year.
India hasn't openly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and has taken a neutral stance on the matter. While India abstained from voting on resolutions condemning Russia at the United Nations, it also abstained on a resolution on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine pushed by Russia.
Meanwhile, Daleep Singh, Washington's chief sanctions strategist who was on a two-day India visit until Thursday, said New Delhi couldn't rely on Russia if there was another India-China border conflict. On Thursday, Singh warned countries attempting to "circumvent" sanctions against Russia of "consequences." He also said the US wouldn't like to see a "rapid" increase in India's imports of Russian energy and other commodities.
"Russia is going to be the junior partner in this relationship with China. And the more leverage that China gains over Russia, the less favorable that is for India" Singh had said on Thursday. "I don't think anyone would believe that if China once again breached the Line of (Actual) Control...Russia would come running to India's defense," added the US Deputy National Security Advisor.
Meanwhile, as oil prices rise, India defended its decision to seek "good deals" for energy needs. Russian oil imports account for less than 1% of India's total imports. "If we wait for two or three months...look at who are the big buyers of Russian oil and gas, I suspect the list would not be too different from what it used to be," Jaishankar said.