Russian foreign minister may visit India this week amid Ukraine crisis

Updated on Mar 29, 2022 08:35 AM IST

The Indian side will also host UK foreign secretary Liz Truss on March 31, the day when Lavrov is expected to arrive in New Delhi.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to hold bilateral talks and attend a meeting of foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries in China during March 30-31. (File photo)
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to hold bilateral talks and attend a meeting of foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries in China during March 30-31. (File photo)
By, New Delhi

The Ukraine crisis is set to top the agenda when Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov travels to India for a short visit this week after meetings in China, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The Indian side will also host UK foreign secretary Liz Truss on March 31, the day when Lavrov is expected to arrive in New Delhi. Truss is expected to raise the Ukraine crisis with her Indian interlocutors as part of Britain’s ongoing efforts to support the government of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Lavrov is expected to hold bilateral talks and attend a meeting of foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries in China during March 30-31. This is the third such meeting being hosted by Beijing and is set to be attended by representatives of Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

In New Delhi, Lavrov is expected to hold talks with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar on April 1. The people cited above said the agenda for the visit and other meetings were still being firmed up. However, the conflict in Ukraine and its fallout is expected to figure in the discussions, they said.

For the Russian side, the relationship with India – one of the few countries that has not publicly criticised President Vladimir Putin’s military operation against Ukraine – is seen as crucial. The Russian side appreciates the position adopted by the Indian side at forums such as the UN, the people said.

The two sides are expected to discuss alternative payment mechanisms for defence and other deals to address the impact of crippling sanctions imposed on Russian banks and entities by the US and its allies.

Besides big ticket defence deals that are underway, such as the $5.4-billion contract for S-400 air defence systems, India is also considering a Russian offer to supply oil and other commodities at discounted rates. A group of representatives of different ministries, headed by the finance minister, is assessing the possible impact of Western sanctions on India.

The people said that trade in rupee and roubles and the possibility of pegging trade to a third currency in view of the volatility of the Russian rouble are among the options being looked at by the two countries.

At the same time, the foreign ministers of European countries such as Greece and Austria have made a beeline for New Delhi to discuss the Ukraine crisis and to nudge India to change its position on the issue at the UN General Assembly and Security Council.

India has abstained on all Ukraine-related resolutions at UN bodies, though it has repeatedly called for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states to be respected. In his phone conversations with the Russian and Ukrainian presidents, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for an immediate cessation of violation and a return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue.

Lavrov is set to be in India days after a visit by China’s foreign minister Wang Yi, who too discussed the Ukraine crisis with his Indian counterpart.

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