As high-level talks began between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, India and Russia exchanged cordiality amid a “difficult international environment”. While India reiterated its stand in favour of resolving issues through diplomacy, Russia said that the search for a balance of interests will always prevail between the two countries.
Jaishankar and Lavrov’s meeting comes a day after the US warned of consequences for countries attempting to “circumvent" American sanctions against Moscow.
“Our bilateral relations have continued to grow in many areas. Our meeting takes place in a difficult international environment quite apart from the pandemic. India has always been in favour of resolving disputes through diplomacy,” Jaishankar said.
Meanwhile, conveying Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal greetings for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lavrov said, “India and Russia relations have sustained through difficult times. The search for the balance of interests will always prevail. Western forces try to connect any issue to the situation in Ukraine and we appreciate that India has always tried to see the situation in its entirety. The world order should be balanced.”
On a positive note, Lavrov expressed his desire to personally convey his best regards to PM Modi.
The high-level talks took place in the backdrop of indications that India could buy greater volumes of discounted Russian oil and both sides were keen on having a rouble-rupee arrangement for bilateral trade. Lavrov arrived in New Delhi on Thursday evening after concluding a two-day visit to China.
The Russian foreign minister is scheduled to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his talks with Jaishankar. Hours before the Russian foreign minister landed in India, US Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh cautioned that there will be consequences for countries actively attempting to “circumvent or backfill" American sanctions against Moscow.
After holding a series of meetings with Indian interlocutors, he also said that Washington would not like to see a “rapid" acceleration in India’s import of energy and other commodities from Russia. The proposed rupee-rouble payment system, if finalised, is likely to help the two long-standing strategic partners carry on with bilateral trade while avoiding the purview of Western sanctions on Russia.
Welcomed Russian FM Sergey Lavrov in Hyderabad House.Look forward to our conversation today. pic.twitter.com/bc9qrO2TxD
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) April 1, 2022
People familiar with Lavrov’s visit said earlier that the Indian side is likely to press for timely delivery of various military hardware as well as components of the S-400 missile systems by Russia. Unlike many other leading powers, India has not yet criticised Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and it abstained from votes at the UN platforms in condemning the Russian aggression.
However, last Thursday, India abstained on a resolution pushed by Russia on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, which was seen as reflective of its neutral position on the conflict. India has been pressing for the resolution of the crisis through diplomacy and dialogue.
Prime Minister Modi has held phone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24, March 2 and March 7. Modi had spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy twice.
Last week, Jaishankar said in Parliament that India’s position on the Ukraine conflict has been “steadfast and consistent" and that it has been seeking immediate cessation of violence.