- Mr. Lavrov's visit is likely to focus on strategic issues arising from the war, as well as specific discussions on acquiring Russian oil, payment mechanisms, and possible difficulties in the delivery of military gear, given sanctions against Russian banks and exclusion from the SWIFT.
According to sources, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Delhi this week for official consultations as the conflict in Ukraine enters its second month. The visit, which is the first by a top Russian official since President Vladimir Putin declared war on the neighbouring country, comes amid a flurry of trips by Western-backed sanctions regime leaders hoping to sway India’s position, which has not condemned Moscow for the invasion.
Mr. Lavrov’s visit is likely to focus on strategic issues arising from the war, as well as specific discussions on acquiring Russian oil, payment mechanisms, and possible difficulties in the delivery of military gear, given sanctions against Russian banks and exclusion from the SWIFT.
Last week, the Modi government told Parliament that it is evaluating discounted Russian oil offers, and that a special inter-ministerial panel led by the Finance Ministry is looking into payment concerns for Indian importers and exporters as a result of the war and Western sanctions.
A delegation from the Bank will travel to India.
According to The Hindu, technical meetings between the Russian Central Bank or Bank of Russia and the Reserve Bank of India will take place this week, and a team will fly to India ahead of Mr. Lavrov’s visit to examine payment arrangements in further detail.
India would also expect Russia to provide clarity and assurances on the timely delivery of spare parts and components for existing systems, as well as on ongoing acquisitions like as the S-400 and Ak-203 assault rifles, as well as streamlining the rupee-rouble payment system for any future purchases.
Mr. Lavrov’s visit was preceded by a meeting between recently appointed Russian Ambassador Denis Alipov and three of the Ministry of External Affairs’ highest-ranking officials: Secretary (West) Sanjay Verma, Secretary (East) Saurabh Kumar, and Secretary (Economic Relations) Dammu Ravi. Mr. Alipov stated in tweets that he had discussions about Russia-India cooperation at the United Nations, the G-20, and other multilateral platforms.
Mr. Lavrov’s visit will be seen as an attempt to reach out to India as the US and its European allies step up pressure on Russia to “isolate” it, increase defence supplies to Ukraine and neighbouring nations, and call on other countries to join in.
Last week, US President Joe Biden stated that he was exploring the idea of excluding Russia from the G-20 grouping, with the next summit scheduled for November in Bali, Indonesia. Officials added that India, which will host the G20 conference in 2023, would be reluctant to accept such a move if asked.
Mid-week, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Mexican Foreign Minister Ebrard will be in Delhi, as will Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit next Sunday. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh are also set to go to the United States later this month to meet with their colleagues Antony Blinken and Gen. Lloyd Austin, where possible US sanctions on the S400 purchase may be discussed.
‘The element in common’
Mr. Lavrov’s visit comes just days after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Delhi, where he met with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Mr. Jaishankar, among others, to discuss the Ukraine crisis. Mr. Jaishankar said the “common element” in thinking on the crisis was the need for an immediate ceasefire and a return to dialogue and diplomacy. Mr. Lavrov is also expected to fly to Beijing for bilateral talks and an Afghanistan summit.
India has continuously abstained from all UN resolutions criticising Russia to date, and has advocated for dialogue. While Indian students were being taken back from Ukraine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with Mr. Putin and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on the phone many times between February 24 and March 7, and diplomats have suggested he may help broker a resolution.