File photo: Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.(ANI)
File photo: Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.(ANI)

‘Independent ties with countries’: India pushes back against Russian minister’s comments

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov had created a flutter in diplomatic circles by saying that Western powers were promoting the Indo-Pacific strategy.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Rezaul H Laskar | Edited by Sparshita Saxena
UPDATED ON DEC 12, 2020 12:14 AM IST

New Delhi on Friday pushed back against the Russian foreign minister’s stand that the West’s Indo-Pacific policies were aimed at enmeshing India in “anti-China games”, saying the country has an independent foreign policy based on its national interests.

India’s long-standing ties with Russia, including in the sphere of military-technical cooperation, stand on their own merits and New Delhi doesn’t perceive the Indo-Pacific as an exclusive club directed against any country, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov had created a flutter in diplomatic circles by telling a meeting of state-run think tank Russian International Affairs Council on Tuesday that Western powers were promoting the Indo-Pacific strategy and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad to engage India in “anti-China games”. At the same time, Lavrov said, the West is trying to undermine Russia’s partnership with India.

Asked about these remarks at a weekly news briefing, Srivastava said, “India has always pursued an independent foreign policy based on its national interest. India’s relationship with each country is independent of its relations with third countries.”

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He added, “We hope that this is well understood and appreciated by all our partners.”

India’s position on the Indo-Pacific had been “unequivocally outlined” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2018. “India does not see the Indo-Pacific region as a strategy or as a club of limited members or as a grouping that seeks to dominate. It is not directed against any country. It stands for a free, open and inclusive region,” Srivastava said.

While addressing the Russian International Affairs Council in Moscow, Lavrov had also said that the “very tough pressure” from the US on India concerning military-technical cooperation is part of the efforts to undermine the partnership with Russia.

The remarks were apparently a reference to the US threat of imposing sanctions on India under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for the $5.4-billion deal with Russia for S-400 air defence systems.

However, Srivastava said India’s long-standing relations with Russia were characterised as a “special and privileged strategic partnership”, and 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of this strategic partnership. “Our relations with Russia stand on their own merits, including in the sphere of military-technical cooperation,” he said.

Russia currently accounts for more than 60 per cent of the inventory of India’s armed forces despite New Delhi’s efforts to acquire weapon systems from more diverse sources, including the US, Israel and France. The US has pushed India in recent years to acquire more American military hardware.

While India has acquired platforms such as Chinook and Apache helicopters and C-17 heavy lift aircraft and leased MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones from the US, it has also inked big-ticket deals with Russia for acquiring the S-400 systems and assault rifles.

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