Russia praises India’s neutral stand on Ukraine war

NEW DELHI (AP) — Russia’s foreign minister lauded India for not taking a “one-sided view” as he discussed Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine with his Indian counterpart on Friday, after Washington urged New Delhi to use its leverage with Russia to end the war.

India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in their opening remarks underlined that ties between the two countries have sustained them through difficult times in the past.

Jaishankar said India has always been in favor of resolving differences through dialogue and diplomacy and avoided condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lavrov praised India for judging “the situation in its entirety, not just in a one-sided way.” He expressed hope that mutual respect in search of a balance in ties will prevail in the future.

Uninterrupted supply of spare parts for Russian military equipment in India’s arsenal, trade and oil payments in roubles, as demanded by Moscow, are expected to be discussed by the two sides. India was Moscow’s ally during the Cold War but has since sought to maintain ties with both Russia and Western nations.

On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. expected India would use its relations with Russia to help end the war in Ukraine.

“Different countries are going to have their own relationship with the Russian Federation. It’s a fact of history, it’s a fact of geography. That is not something that we are seeking to change,“ Price told reporters in Washington.

He said the U.S. is looking for its friends and allies to speak in unison and loudly against the “unjustified, unprovoked, premeditated Russian aggression.”

Experts say up to 60% of Indian defense equipment comes from Russia. New Delhi finds itself in a bind at a time when it is facing a 2-year-old standoff with China along their disputed border, with tens of thousands of soldiers within shooting distance. Twenty Indian soldiers and four Chinese soldiers died in a clash in 2020.

In the early 1990s, about 70% of Indian army weapons, 80% of its air force systems and 85% of its navy platforms were of Soviet origin. India is now reducing its dependency on Russian arms and diversifying its defense procurements, buying more from countries like the United States, Israel, France and Italy.

But energy dependency on Russia remains a factor in relations.

Last month, state-run Indian Oil Corp. bought 3 million barrels of crude from Russia to secure its needs, resisting Western pressure to avoid such purchases.

Jaishankar, who met British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Thursday, defended India’s decision and decried “what looks almost like a campaign on this issue.”

He said the March figures show that Europe bought 15% more oil and gas from Russia than it did in February.

“We get the bulk of our supply from the Middle East. In the past, India bought less than 1% from Russia. When the oil prices go up it is natural for countries to go out to the market and look up for good deals that are good for people,” he said at a meeting of the India-U.K. Strategic Futures Forum.

“I am quite sure that if we wait for two-three months and look at who are the big buyers, I suspect the list will not be vastly different. I suspect we will not be in top 10 on that list.“

The United States, Britain and other Western countries are urging India to avoid buying Russian oil and gas. Indian media reports said Russia was offering a discount on oil purchases of 20% below global benchmark prices.

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