Focus on New Delhi’s role as Jaishankar heads to Moscow

Amid Russia-Ukraine standoff, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is heading to Moscow for a bilateral meeting on Monday.

More of his meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, including bilateral meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov. There is no word yet on a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but it cannot be ruled out.

Jaishankar’s visit assumes significance as it comes days before the G20 summit in Bali, scheduled for November 15-16. This is the first time since the start of the war in Ukraine that Putin and Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden, will be in the same room.

Jaishankar’s visit is seen as a key moment, where Delhi is presented as a potential negotiator between the two sides. He last traveled to Moscow in July 2021.

It turns out that India has been quietly intervening in the deadlock for the past few months. In July, India weighed in with Russia over grain shipments from ports on the Black Sea.

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Many of these messages have been sent quietly, with Delhi establishing itself as a credible player on both sides. But, this has not always worked.

The Washington Post reported over the weekend that Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered to help with peace talks in a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last month. According to the report, Zelensky rejected the offer.

The report said that according to a statement released by Zelensky’s office, “Zelensky told him that Ukraine would not engage in any negotiations with Putin, but said that Ukraine was committed to a peaceful settlement through dialogue.” The statement said that Russia has deliberately undermined efforts at dialogue.

But, with winter approaching in the conflict zone, there is a sense that both sides want a ceasefire before early next year, when they can regroup and resume fighting. Many see this as a potential opportunity for a ceasefire and Delhi could act as a mediator between the two sides.

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For Delhi, the bilateral aspect is key. This is the first winter in three years that Russian military supply lines have been strained by the eight-month war in Ukraine, while Indian and Chinese forces have been locked in a border standoff in eastern Ladakh.

For India, which depends on Russia for its defense procurement, this is the most important pillar of the relationship.

The new element in the relationship is energy, as Russia is reported to have become India’s largest supplier of crude oil in October 2022 as refiners increased their purchases of discounted marine crude. This has added a new element to the relationship with Moscow, which has not gone down well with Ukraine as well as its Western partners.

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This aspect is also expected to be addressed during Jaishankar’s visit, and officials said it was part of his discussion with Manturov, his counterpart at the Indo-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. – TEC.

Arindam Bagchi, official spokesperson of the MEA, said on Thursday ahead of the visit: “Issues related to bilateral economic cooperation will obviously be discussed in various areas.

Notably, it is Modi’s turn to visit Russia this year, and if he can visit Russia next month, Jaishankar will be there to make arrangements.

On the eve of Jaishankar’s meeting, Putin has expressed concern about Modi and India. A week after praising Modi and calling him a “true patriot”, he praised India, calling its citizens “talented” and “motivating”.


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