Sergey Lavrov in India amid US warning over Russia oil imports & Rupee-Rouble payments

Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov arrives in New Delhi for an official visit, on 31 March 2022.Photo- ANI, MFA Russia Twitter )

MELBOURNE, 1 April 2022: Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last night landed in New Delhi under the shadow of the Ukraine crisis and the ensuing US-Western sanctions against Moscow. Russia and India are expected to discuss the Ukraine crisis and India’s plan for importing cheap crude Russian oil through the Rupee-Rouble trade, which earlier operated during the cold war. India’s relations with Russia have become a thorn for the West as it did not condemn it for the ‘special operations’ (described as ‘invasion’ by the West) in Ukraine.

India is heavily dependent on defence supplies from Russia and is in the process of receiving the S-400 missiles. The country has been abstaining on UN resolutions condemning Russia over Ukraine. Western pressure on India is mounting to change or water down this stance. Now a clear warning has come.

The Hindu reports: “There will be “consequences” for any country, including India, that conducts local currency transactions through Russia’s central bank or constructs a payment mechanism that subverts or circumvents the United States sanctions against Russia, American Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Daleep Singh said in New Delhi on Thursday, hours before Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov landed.

In a first for the U.S. administration, Singh also publicly stated that India must not expect that Russia, as a “junior partner” of China, would assist India if there were more incursions along the Line of Actual Control.”

“I come here in a spirit of friendship to explain the mechanisms of our sanctions, the importance of joining us, to express a shared resolve and to advance shared interests. And yes, there are consequences to countries that actively attempt to circumvent or backfill the sanctions,” Singh told journalists between his official meetings.

We are very keen for all countries, especially our allies and partners, not to create mechanisms that prop up the [Russian] rouble, and those that attempt to undermine the dollar based financial system,” he stated in reply to a question from The Hindu.

Welcoming the Russian Foreign Minister,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a tweet. Lavrov, who arrived on Thursday (31 March 2022) on a two-day official visit, is expected to meet and hold talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday (1 April 2022).

The Russian Foreign Minister reached New Delhi after his two-day visit to China.

ANI adds: “New Delhi has seen a flurry of visits by foreign leaders over the past fortnight. China’s foreign minister Wang Yi had visited India last week.
Russian Foreign Minister this week participated in two multinational meetings on Afghanistan along with representatives from Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Lavrov also held meetings with representatives from China and Pakistan and attended a separate meeting of the “Extended Troika” with special Afghan envoys from China and the US.”

The tussle between the West and Russia over Ukraine seems to have put India in a delicate situation. In the recent second virtual summit between Australia’s PM Scott Morrison and Indian PM N. Modi, the Indian PM did not even mention the Ukraine crisis. India’s strategic autonomy in the global power play faces testing times.

Answering a journalist’s question on India’s silence over Ukraine on 17 March 2022, PM Scott Morrison said, ” Well, we work closely with all of our Quad partners. I’ve already held meetings with the Quad leaders and, and India has its issues that it’s addressing. But we also appreciate their calls to ensure a peaceful resolution to what’s happening in Ukraine.”

Brave words indeed.

By Neeraj Nanda

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