‘Ensure Russia honours UN deal to ship grains from Ukraine’: USAID chief in India

Updated on Jul 27, 2022 09:36 PM IST

USAID chief Samantha Power said that India acted swiftly to help the crisis-ridden Sri Lanka while calls to China went unanswered

USAID chief Samantha Power is on a visit to New Delhi to address the global food security crisis. (AP Photo)
USAID chief Samantha Power is on a visit to New Delhi to address the global food security crisis. (AP Photo)

India and the US have to work with other countries to ensure that Russia honours the terms of a United Nations-brokered deal to ship grains from Ukraine in order to ease global food shortages, USAID chief Samantha Power said on Wednesday.

Power, on a visit to New Delhi to address the global food security crisis, also contrasted the role of India and China in responding to the severe economic crisis in Sri Lanka. She emphasised that the Indian side has done much more by reacting swiftly with economic assistance worth more than $3.5 billion.

The deal to ship grains out of Ukraine was put together by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres over many weeks, but Russia has imposed a “lot of restrictions” on modalities and the inspection process, Power told reporters after delivering an address on the US-India development partnership.

“The stakes are extremely high. Twenty million metric tonnes of grains on which the global food supply is going to be influenced remain trapped [in Ukraine],” she said.

Russia has to respect the terms of the UN-brokered deal, and it is important that all countries, including the US and India, “hold Russia to the terms of the deal”, she said.

The fact that 20 million tonnes of grains remain trapped in Ukraine has driven up global food prices, and “it is absolutely critical that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his forces let the grains go”, she added.

“The only way that the food will be released to the global market is if Russia is willing to not only allow the ships to pass but not to attack the Ukrainians in the ships or the ports or the roads whereby these crops are being transported,” Power said.

Also Read:Ukraine works to resume grain exports, flags Russian strikes as risk

“So far, what we have seen from the Russian federation is a string of lies and broken promises, and above all, a string of months and months of devastating attacks on civilian infrastructure...,” she added.

Despite a Russian missile strike on the Ukrainian port of Odessa on Saturday, Ukraine has said it hopes the deal to resume grain exports from Black Sea ports will be implemented this week. Russia has claimed the missile strike targeted only military infrastructure.

During her address, Power pointed out that India reacted “really swiftly” to help Sri Lanka cope with the economic crisis, whereas calls to China to provide relief had gone unanswered. China became one of Sri Lanka’s “biggest creditors” by offering “opaque loan deals”, she noted.

“India has reacted really swiftly with an absolutely critical set of measures,” she said, pointing to the lines of credit and other assistance worth some $3.5 billion that was offered to Colombo by New Delhi.

“Contrast this with the People’s Republic of China, which has been an increasingly eager creditor of the Sri Lankan governments since the mid-2000s,” Power said. Over the past two decades, China became “one of Sri Lanka’s biggest creditors, offering often opaque loan deals at higher interest rates than other lenders and financing a raft of headline-grabbing infrastructure projects with often questionable practical use for Sri Lankans, including a massive port that generated little income and was barely used by ships”, she said in an apparent reference to Hambantota port.

She added: “The calls to provide more significant relief have gone unanswered and the biggest question of all is whether Beijing will restructure debt to the same extent as other bilateral creditors.”

Power told reporters that the US and India are “deeply concerned by the economic collapse” in Sri Lanka, and both countries have extended aid to Colombo. But she pointed out that it is “important that the Sri Lankan government itself course corrects on so many of the economic and political decisions that had been made in recent years that have contributed to this crisis”.

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