Notwithstanding the Western pressure on India to take a clear position over the conflict in Ukraine, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar today said New Delhi has a ”substantial and time-tested” relationship with Russia and the two countries were trying to find ways to expand this relationship and make it more durable.
At a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, he said the conflict in Ukraine figured prominently during the meeting between the two foreign ministers.
He arrived in Moscow yesterday on a two-day visit in continuation of regular high-level dialogue between the two countries.
In response to a question on India’s oil purchases from Russia despite Moscow’s action in Ukraine, he asserted that as the world’s third-largest consumer of oil and gas, it was New Delhi’s fundamental obligation to ensure that the Indian consumer has the best possible access on most advantageous terms to the international market.
Jaishankar recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had conveyed to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Uzbekistan in September that this was now an era of war. ”Global economy is simply too interdependent for significant conflict anywhere not to have major consequences elsewhere,” he observed.
He said the world was now witnessing the consequences of the Ukraine conflict. There were also the more perennial issues of terrorism and climate change, both of which have a disruptive impact on progress and prosperity.
Sending out a clear message to the Western powers, he said Russia has been a steady partner of India, adding that any objective evaluation of the relationship over many decades would confirm that it has served both countries very well for many decades.
He said India and Russia have grappled with how they should expand their bilateral trade. ”We are naturally concerned about trade imbalance and have raised this with the Russian side regarding how to arrest impediments that stand in the way of Indian exports.”
H e said his talks with his Russian counterpart addressed the overall global situation as well as specific regional concerns. India and Russia, he noted, engaged each other in an increasingly multi-polar and rebalanced world. ”We have had an exceptionally steady relationship”.
Lavrov said that with the changes the international community was going through, it was important to compare notes with the Indian side.
”It is important for us to work on the goals set by the Russian President and the PM of India on the economy, trade, investments, tech sphere,” he added.
He pointed out that India and Russia coordinated their actions in international organisations such as the UN Security Council where India was currently a non-permanent member. ”All this is enriching our agenda,” he added.