In his first visit since the Ukraine war, Jaishankar to meet Manturov and Lavrov in Moscow

In his first visit since the Ukraine war, Jaishankar to meet Manturov and Lavrov in Moscow

EAM Jaishankar’s Moscow visit comes amidst speculation that India will mediate between Russia and Ukraine

External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar will meet with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday, during his first visit to Russia since the war in Ukraine began, and amidst a number of U.S.-based reports on a possible role for India to mediate in the conflict.

Dr. Jaishankar’s meeting with Mr. Manturov, who is also the Minister for Trade and Industry, will focus on improving bilateral economic cooperation at a time when India-Russia bilateral trade has reportedly tripled, and Indian imports of Russian oil have grown more than 20 times in the past year.

“The talks [between EAM Jaishankar and his counterparts] will focus on the trade and investments, transport and logistics, the use of national currencies in mutual settlements, as well as promising projects in the energy sector, especially in the Arctic shelf and the Russian Far East,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Dr. Jaishankar’s visit, over which he will hold talks on the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC) with Mr. Manturov.

According to the latest figures for October, Russia is now India’s largest supplier of oil, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Iraq, leaping from 43,400 barrels per day (bpd), which made up just 0.2% of total exports last year, to 9,35,556 bpd which is about 22% of the total intake this year. Indian and Russian Central banks have also been in talks in the past few months about developing the Rupee-Rouble payment mechanism that will allow them to circumnavigate U.S. and European Union sanctions on Russia over the war.

Criticism of India for Russian oil imports reflection of West’s double standards: Russia

Cooperation at multilateral formats, including the UN, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), G-20, and Russia-India-China dialogues will also be on the agenda for talks. India’s steadfast refusal to vote against Russia at any of the United Nations votes on the war in Ukraine has been appreciated by Moscow, and President Vladimir Putin praised India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi twice in the past few weeks, for India’s “talented” population, and the “independent foreign policy” it has chosen. Mr. Putin also said Russia had increased fertilizer supplies to India “7.6” times after a request from Mr. Modi.

In talks with Mr. Lavrov, Dr. Jaishankar is expected to discuss regional issues and raise India’s concerns over the continuing war and the worry of food and fuel shortages as a result of the violence and Western sanctions. Speculation has been growing about a possible role for India in mediating between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, with reports in the The New York Times and The Washington Post indicating hopes in the U.S. that Mr. Modi, who has been in touch with both leaders, could help push Moscow and Kiev closer to dialogue.

“Our position on the conflict in Ukraine is pretty clear. We have always emphasised on the need for return to dialogue and diplomacy. I’m sure that External Affairs Minister would certainly be reiterating. But beyond that, I cannot say what they will discuss or what not,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, when asked about whether Dr. Jaishankar would speak to Mr. Lavrov about ending the war.

Dr. Jaishankar is also expected to discuss the expected annual summit between Mr. Modi and Mr. Putin, which is due in December, although no date has been set yet, and “compare notes on the schedule of upcoming contacts”, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. Another possible meeting between the leaders on the sidelines of the G-20 in Bali on November 15-16 will depend on whether Mr. Putin travels there, which officials said seemed less likely at present.

“Russia and India stand for the active formation of a more just and equal polycentric world order, and proceed from the inadmissibility of promoting the imperialist diktat on the global arena,” the Russian Foreign Ministry added, in a veiled reference to Western countries, which are working on the next round of economic sanctions against Russia. In a meeting last week, G-7 countries announced a coordination mechanism for efforts to support Ukraine, and France plans to host an international conference on December 13 to discuss the war.

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