Top Russian, US and UK officials head to Delhi this week amid Ukraine conflict

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to arrive in India on March 31. US deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh, who played a key role in shaping sanctions against Russia, and UK foreign secretary Liz Truss, are also expected to be in Delhi this week
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to hold talks with Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar on April 1. (Sonu Mehta/HT File Photo)
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to hold talks with Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar on April 1. (Sonu Mehta/HT File Photo)
Updated on Mar 29, 2022 11:08 PM IST
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NEW DELHI: US deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh, who has played a key role in shaping American sanctions against Russia, is expected to travel to New Delhi this week for meetings with Indian interlocutors around the time of a visit by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

The Indian-American official, who is deputy national security advisor for international economics and deputy director of the US National Economic Council, has helped design the punitive sanctions targeting President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle and Russian entities following the invasion of Ukraine.

Singh is expected to be in the Indian capital for meetings on March 31, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. There was no official announcement from the Indian or American side regarding the visit, which is being seen as part of Washington’s efforts to nudge India to change its position on the Ukraine crisis. Singh is expected to interact with top officials of India’s National Security Council.

Lavrov is expected to arrive in India on March 31 after a two-day visit to China, where he will hold bilateral talks and participate in a meeting of foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries. Neither India nor Russia has officially announced the visit, though Lavrov is expected to hold talks with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar on April 1.

The Russian side is keen to focus on overcoming the fallout of US sanctions on defence and economic deals with Indian, including switching to a rupee-rouble payment system.

The Ukraine issue is also expected to figure prominently during UK foreign secretary Liz Truss’s engagements in the Indian capital on March 31. Truss is expected to hold talks with Jaishankar, defence minister Rajnath Singh and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the people cited above said.

The German foreign and security policy adviser to the federal chancellor, Jens Plotner, too is visiting New Delhi this week for consultations with Indian officials, including on the Ukraine crisis.

Differences between the US and India on the Ukraine crisis spilled out into the open last week, when President Joe Biden said the world had mounted a “united front” across Europe and the Pacific on the Russian aggression against Ukraine, with the “possible exception of India”. He also said India had been “somewhat shaky” with the Quad on the issue.

US undersecretary for political affairs Victoria Nuland, who was in New Delhi for foreign office consultations last week, also raised the Ukraine issue with Indian interlocutors. She said it was important for democracies to stand together at a time when “autocracies like Russia [and] China” are posing a threat to peace and security. Nuland was accompanied by assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs Donald Lu and deputy under secretary of defence Amanda Dory.

India has refrained from publicly criticising the Russian offensive and abstained on all Ukraine-related votes at UN bodies. It has continued its economic engagement with Russia, including massive purchases of oil offered at discounted rates.

However, New Delhi has emphasised the importance of the UN charter and called for respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his phone conversations with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has sought an end to violence and direct talks between the two sides.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022