- Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, is in Delhi today for talks.
- Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo described the deal as “deeply disappointing” while also stating that she has not seen any specifics.
- India is the only major US ally that has not publicly criticized Moscow, although it has called for an end to the violence.
As Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov came to Delhi for talks, the US and Australia criticized India for considering a Russian proposal that would weaken sanctions imposed by the US and its allies, showing a deepening rift between the emerging security partners.
“Now is the time to unite the United States and dozens of other nations in standing up for freedom, democracy, and sovereignty with the Ukrainian people, not funding, fuelling, and helping President Putin’s aggression,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters in Washington on Wednesday. She called reports of the agreement “deeply disappointing,” but said she hadn’t seen any details.
Australia’s trade minister, Dan Tehan, also spoke at the briefing, emphasising the need of democracies working “to retain the rules-based approach that we’ve had since WWII.”
The statements reflect rising unease with India among members of the Quad, a group of democracies attempting to counter China’s aggression in the Asia-Pacific area that includes the United States, Australia, and Japan. India is the world’s largest buyer of Russian weapons, and it has also been looking for low-cost oil as fuel costs have risen.
While India has backed calls for a cease-fire and a diplomatic settlement, it abstained from voting on draft resolutions criticising Russia’s invasion at the United Nations, which were eventually vetoed by Moscow. After the United States and the European Union barred seven Russian banks from using the Belgium-based cross-border payment system operator, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that India is considering a strategy to make rupee-ruble transfers using an alternative to SWIFT.
Russian central bank officials are expected to visit next week to examine the details of the plan, which involves rupee-ruble payments using the country’s messaging system SPFS. The inal decision is yet to be taken.
With China’s foreign minister visiting for the first time since 2019, and now Lavrov attempting to shore up support, India’s middle-ground position on the conflict has been subjected to a frenzy of diplomacy in recent weeks. Meanwhile, the US and its allies are increasing their involvement in an attempt to influence Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
Fumio Kishida, the Japanese prime minister, visited Delhi earlier this month, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke with Modi by video conference. Secretary of State Antony Blinken have spoken with his counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, on Wednesday to discuss, “the increasing humanitarian situation in Ukraine,” among other issues.
India will also receive US Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Daleep Singh and UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss during Lavrov’s visit. Her office stated said she “will point to the importance of all countries reducing strategic dependency on Russia at this time of heightened global insecurity.”
India has addressed US concerns by stating that it requires Russian arms to resist China, particularly after border clashes in 2020, and that alternatives are too costly. Even though Modi has pulled India further into the US orbit in recent years, the strategic alliance between India and Russia dates back to the Cold War and remains strong.