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Lavrov visits India to discuss Ukraine amid US criticism

April 1, 2022

Russia's top envoy has said he "appreciates" India's response to the Ukraine crisis. India has so far refused to condemn Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, calling only for a cessation of violence.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Lavrov's India trip coincides with visits by UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Daleep Singh, the US's chief sanctions strategistImage: REUTERS

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is holding talks Friday with senior Indian officials on the Ukraine war and ways to boost bilateral ties.  

It comes after Lavrov met his Chinese counterpart earlier in the week. 

The two Asian powers are the only major countries to have not condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February.

"We appreciate that India is taking this situation in the entirety of facts and not just in a one-sided way," Lavrov said in his opening remarks during a meeting with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

"We continue to implement projects in the areas of energy, science and technology, outer space, pharmaceutical industry," he said.

Jaishankar said bilateral ties had been expanded but that they would have detailed discussions about the ongoing "difficult international environment".

"India, as you are aware, has always been in favor of resolving differences and disputes with dialogue and diplomacy," he said.

Lavrov's trip coincides with visits by UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Daleep Singh, the US chief sanctions strategist.

Despite Western pressure, India has so far refused to condemn Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, calling only for a cessation of violence.

New Delhi has abstained from voting on UN resolutions censuring Russia and continues to buy Russian oil and other goods.

West criticizes India for its stance

India is considering doubling its imports of Russian coking coal used in making steel. And Reuters reported this week that India has agreed to buy 45,000 tons of Russian sunflower oil for April delivery after supplies from Ukraine stopped, more than double the monthly average last year.

Russia, meanwhile, is offering India steep discounts — of as much as $35 (€31) off per barrel on prices before the war — on the direct sale of oil, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The two countries, which have shared close ties for decades, are also reportedly working on a rupee-ruble payment mechanism to facilitate trade and circumvent Western sanctions.

The move has frustrated the US and its allies, who have been trying to isolate and punish Moscow.

The US and Australia on Wednesday criticized India, with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo saying, "Now is the time to stand on the right side of history," and not fund and aid Russia's war on Ukraine. It came after US President Joe Biden said recently that India was "somewhat shaky" on Russia.

The UK Foreign Office said Truss would underline the "importance of democracies working together to deter aggressors" in her meetings with Indian officials. 

US sees fossil fuel renaissance

India, Russia share close ties

India and Russia have deep historical ties that go back to the early decades of the Cold War, when New Delhi leaned toward the Soviet Union.

New Delhi, which views Moscow as its "longstanding and time-tested friend," sources most of its key military hardware, including battle tanks, fighter aircraft and submarines, from Russia.

For instance, Russian T-90 tanks form the mainstay of the Indian army, and Russian MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets play a vital role in its air force arsenal.

India recently began receiving deliveries from Russia of the S-400 missile defense system that it agreed to buy for more than $5 billion (€4.5 billion) in 2018, despite the threat of US sanctions.

The South Asian country, which is heavily reliant on imports to meet its energy needs, is a major consumer of Russian oil. Total annual bilateral trade runs at around $9 billion, with much smaller quantities of pharmaceuticals, tea and coffee going the other direction.

sri/kb (AFP, Reuters)