Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has begun meeting with India’s leaders in New Delhi after seeing his Chinese counterpart earlier this week, as Moscow tries to keep the Asian powers on its side amid Western sanctions.
The two Asian powers are among few countries to have not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. After Lavrov visited China this week, Beijing said it was “more determined” to develop bilateral ties with Russia.
“We appreciate that India is taking this situation in the entirety of facts and not just in a one-sided way,” Lavrov said in his opening remarks during a meeting with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Friday.
“We continue to implement projects in the areas of energy, science and technology, outer space, pharmaceutical industry.”
Jaishankar said bilateral relations had been expanded but that they would have detailed discussions about the ongoing “difficult international environment”.
“India, as you are aware, has always been in favour of resolving differences and disputes with dialogue and diplomacy,” he said.
Apart from India’s heft as Asia’s third-largest economy, it is currently also a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, giving it extra diplomatic weight.
Lavrov’s mission to shore up support from a country Moscow has long regarded as a friend comes a day after senior United States and British officials held talks in New Delhi to persuade the Indian government to avoid undermining Western sanctions.
The United States deputy national security adviser for international economics, Daleep Singh, said the US would not set any “red line” for India on its energy imports from Russia but did not want to see a “rapid acceleration” in purchases.
British foreign secretary Liz Truss also said Britain respected India’s decision to buy discounted oil from Russia, while advocating stringent sanctions on Russia relating to the ports, gold and energy sectors.
India has bought millions of barrels of crude oil from Russia at a discount since the war erupted, justifying the purchases as beneficial for its citizens and something that even European countries are doing.
India has also contracted to buy sunflower oil from Russia at a record price after supplies from Ukraine stopped due to the war.
Defence analysts say New Delhi can ill-afford to alienate Russia, which has been its biggest arms supplier for decades.
Russian and Indian officials have declined to share the agenda of Lavrov’s visit. He was due to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi before departing on Friday evening.
Indian and Russian officials are expected to discuss a rupee-rouble payments mechanism to maintain trade as dollar-based transactions become difficult due to the sanctions, Reuters has reported.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the US official Singh said: “We would not like to see mechanisms that are designed to prop up the rouble or to undermine the dollar-based financial system, or to circumvent our financial sanctions.”