New Delhi: Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar Friday in an effort to enhance defence and economic cooperation with India, in light of the stringent sanctions that Russia has been subjected to, ThePrint has learnt.
Lavrov, who is coming to India after holding talks with the Chinese government and Taliban officials in China — Beijing did not invite New Delhi for the talks on Afghanistan’s neighbours — is also expected to urge India to participate in the upcoming BRICS (Brazil-Russia-China-India-South Africa) Summit, top-level sources told ThePrint. Lavrov is also likely to push for the smooth functioning of the RIC (Russia-India-China) trilateral.
In Tunxi, China, Lavrov also met his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the sidelines and said, “Those who tried to make Afghanistan the centre of the world politics, now try to make Ukraine to replace Afghanistan. And we all understand what it is about.”
This is Lavrov’s first visit to China and India since Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine in March.
The Russian minister’s visit comes close on the heels of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to India, which was also aimed at getting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to participate in the BRICS Summit in person.
According to sources, Lavrov will be taking up the issues that were discussed during the last India-Russia annual summit, in which both sides agreed to an expansive joint statement, having 99 points of action.
However, sources said, this time, Lavrov may also push India to expedite some of the pending defence deals and to enhance energy imports, as Moscow begins to feel the pressure of the unprecedented economic sanctions being put on it by the Western countries in the wake of the Ukraine war.
Lavrov’s visit to India has already invited criticism from India’s close strategic ally, the US, which called the development as “deeply disappointing”, even as Jaishankar got a call from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken where both of them discussed the ongoing Ukraine war.
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Pushing defence deals
India and Russia had held their inaugural 2+2 format talks in December 2021, eyeing enhancements of security and defence ties between the two. The two countries had, at the time, also renewed their 2011-2020 Long-Term Program for Military and Technical Cooperation for another 10 years, from 2021 to 2031.
But in addition to the S-400 missiles deal, billions of dollars’ worth of defence purchases by India from Russia are stuck in the pipeline for decades. These include procurement of MiG-29 fighters, SU-30 MKI aircraft and joint production of Kamov-226T light military choppers, among others. Now, with the war in Ukraine, the fate of these deals continues to remain on tenterhooks.
During his hurricane tour to India, the Russian foreign minister is likely to take stock of all these deals, and also push to move the proposal to jointly manufacture spare parts, components and aggregates in India, sources said.
Lavrov could also meet National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, while having a last-minute call-on with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sources added.
The other big item on Lavrov’s India agenda will be enhancing energy partnership between Moscow and New Delhi, and how the two-way trade will be conducted under the traditional rupee-rouble mechanism, even as New Delhi is believed to be working out some other payment mode in view of the sanctions against Russia.
The rupee-rouble mechanism had existed in the Soviet era and was designed to bypass the US dollar owing to tensions between Washington and Moscow, which date back decades. Under this system, India paid in rupees for the items it purchased from Russia, equivalent to the value of the product in roubles.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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