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Want India and China to be friends, says Russia’s Lavrov, offers to help calm tensions

Russian Foreign Minister hits out at ASEAN & Quad for being 'openly aimed at ruining East Asia' with meets & summits 'minus-ing Russia & China' from regional equation.

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New Delhi: Asserting that Russia wants both India and China to be “friends”, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Friday offered to help both sides converge since they may “not feel themselves comfortable” engaging one-on-one.

Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and the Ministry of External Affairs, Lavrov also repeatedly hit out at the US, the EU and the NATO for their reactions to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“We are interested in these two great nations to be friends and we are trying to be helpful. It was at the initiative of my great predecessor Yevgeny Primakov that RIC (Russia, India, China), or Troika, was created. He initiated this and this was the beginning of the process which eventually culminated in BRICS, which is now popular among two dozen countries who would like to join,” the Russian foreign minister said.

“The momentum was ensured by this creation…Troika continues to function and we met last year…The more they meet, the better. RIC is a platform for India and China in our presence because they might not feel comfortable being one-on-one all the time,” Lavrov said, adding that Russia supported India joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

New Delhi has been maintaining that ties with Beijing cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas. Ties have been on the backburner ever since the eastern Ladakh military standoff in 2020.

As part of his comments on Russia’s current relations with India and China, Lavrov reiterated that Russia is “always in favour of bringing people together” and hit out at ASEAN and the Quad for being “openly aimed at ruining East Asia” with meets and summits “minus-ing Russia and China” from the regional equation.

India is a member of the four-member Quad whose other members are the US, Australia and Japan. New Delhi’s ties with ASEAN is a key pillar of its foreign policy and the foundation of Act East Policy.

Lavrov further said Russia’s energy policy will be oriented towards more “reliable, credible” partners such as India and China than Western countries.

“The blunt way to describe what’s changed is that we would no more rely on any partners in the West…Everything which is happening now is to reduce Europe as a subordinate player for the United States, to undercut European competitive edge and ruin the economic link between Russia and the EU. So be it…the energy policy of Russia will be oriented towards reliable, credible partners. India and China are certainly among them,” Lavrov said, a day after he blasted the West at the G20 event.

Also Read: What dominates Chinese chatter on India—economy, cheaper medicine

‘Nobody gave a damn’ in G20 before Ukraine

With the topic of conversation dominated by the outcry over the Ukraine invasion, Lavrov did not mince his w0ords in calling out what he views as the “double standards” in the criticism of Moscow “defending itself” against security threats compared to the actions of the US and NATO in the past.

In doing so, he repeatedly cited NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 and US-led wars and military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya as examples of this double standard. He also criticised the G20 for moving away from its historic focus on economic issues like financing and macroeconomics and focusing overtly on Russia and Ukraine, citing his experience at Thursday’s first session of the foreign ministers’ meeting.

“The entire G20 meet yesterday was only about what to do with Ukraine. I ask Indians cheering on the G20 — for all these long years, when did the G20 ever reflect situations in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan or Yugoslavia? Nobody was giving a damn about anything back then except finances and macroeconomic policies, for which G20 was formed. But when it’s not something which the West is doing, when Russia has started to defend itself there’s nothing except Ukraine that G20 is interested in. This policy will fail,” Levrov asserted.

OSC, Minsk & Ukraine’s ‘cancelling’ of Russian language

With Joshi “cutting to the chase” immediately about Russia’s actions in Ukraine at the start of the interview, Lavrov spoke at length about how Moscow repeatedly “warned” the West and the international community about “trouble” at its southwestern borders.

Lavrov’s argument featured the same grievances deeply held by Russia over the West’s commitment to not expand NATO up till Russia’s borders, as well as “lies” spread by Western countries at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

As such, he claimed that the West refused to commit to “legally binding guarantees” on security issues outside of NATO.

Lavrov further hit out at NATO and Ukraine over the issues surrounding the Minsk Agreements, claiming that none of the signatories, except the Putin regime, had any intention of implementing the recommendations of the agreements.

This failure on the West’s part to “deliver” on oral or written promises, Lavrov said, was accompanied by NATO “beefing up the Ukrainian army” since 2014 and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s remarks that the Minsk Agreements were simply needed to “buy time for Ukraine to get more weapons”.

In response to Joshi’s poser about Russia’s endgame and whether it would succeed, Lavrov criticised Kyiv for institutionalised “cancelling” of the Russian language and culture since the ousting of Ukraine’s erstwhile pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych in 2013.

“We defended our security and those Russian people (in Ukraine) who had been denied by Zelenskyy to use Russian language in culture, media and everything else. People who did not accept (Yanukovych’s departure) in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea were declared terrorists,” Lavrov said.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

Also Read: ‘India has a substantial, time-tested relationship with Russia,’ says Jaishankar in Moscow

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