Russia Foreign Minister Wants To “Deliver A Message Personally” To PM Modi

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said India-Russia ties been strong despite difficulties.

New Delhi:

Foreign Minister S Jaishankar held talks today with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov amid intense international pressure over Russian oil imports, with the US warning of “consequences” for countries attempting to circumvent American sanctions against Moscow.

The high-level talks took place amid 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.

Mr Lavrov said he wished to convey a “message personally” from President Vladimir Putin to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The President (Putin) and the Prime Minister are in regular touch with each other and I will report to the President about my negotiations. He sends by the way his best regards to Prime Minister Modi and I would appreciate an opportunity to deliver this message personally,” said the Russian Foreign Minister.

He said ties between India and Russia had been strong despite many difficulties.

“We have been able to find the balance that makes our relationship sustainable. We have had useful meetings as well as 2+2 talks. As far as I understand, we continue to implement projects in areas of energy, science, pharmaceuticals as we manage to fight Covid. You know our position on Ukraine, we do not hide anything and you must take our position in the entirety and not in a one-sided way,” he said.

“We are interested in having a balanced world order which makes it sustainable. These days our western colleagues would like to reduce any meaningful international issue to the crisis in Ukraine…We do not fight anything and we appreciated that India is taking this situation in the entirety of effect and not just one-sided way,” Mr Lavrov added.

In his opening remarks, Mr Jaishankar said: “Our relations have grown and this meeting takes place in a difficult environment, apart from the pandemic.”

The Foreign Minister said India has always been in favour of resolving differences and disputes through dialogue and diplomacy. “In our meeting today, we will have an opportunity to discuss contemporary issues and concerns in some detail.”

Hours before Mr Lavrov’s arrival, US Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh cautioned that there would be consequences for countries actively attempting to “circumvent or backfill” American sanctions against Moscow.

“I come here in a spirit of friendship to explain the mechanisms of our sanctions, the importance of joining us to express shared resolve and to advance shared interests. And yes, there are consequences to countries that actively attempt to circumvent or backfill these sanctions,” said Daleep Singh, to a question about India buying discounted oil from Russia.

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.

India has defended its decision, saying less than 1% of India’s crude purchases are from Russia and Europe imports more than 15% of its needs.

A Bloomberg report said Russia is offering India steep discounts on the direct sale of oil amid mounting international pressure. The sanctions-hit nation is offering its flagship Urals grade to India at discounts of as much as $35 a barrel on prices before the war to lure India to lift more shipments, the report said.

Russia wants India to take 15 million barrels contracted for this year just to begin with, they said, adding the talks are taking place at government level.

India has not yet openly criticised Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and it has abstained from votes at the UN on resolutions condemning Russia.

But last week, 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.

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