Monday, November 28, 2022

India, Russia resolve to expand economic cooperation

India on Tuesday vowed to expand its economic engagement with “time-tested” partner Russia including procurement of crude oil even as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar reiterated New Delhi’s call for resolving the Ukraine conflict through dialogue and diplomacy in his wide-ranging talks with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.
In his opening remarks at the meeting, Jaishankar referred to the “exceptionally steady” Indo-Russia relationship for decades and that the objective is to fashion a contemporary, balanced, mutually beneficial, sustainable and long-term engagement between the two sides.
At a press conference later, the external affairs minister said the talks covered practical cooperation in areas of trade, investments, energy and commodities as well as sensitive domains like defence, space and nuclear energy.
In his remarks, Lavrov described the talks as “fruitful” and welcomed “positive dynamics” in bilateral trade while expressing confidence in achieving the target of an annual trade volume of USD 30 billion soon.
On the Ukraine conflict, Jaishankar referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with Putin in the Uzbek city of Samarkand in September that “today’s era is not of war” and that the Ukraine conflict was a dominant feature in the talks.
“As Prime Minister Modi conveyed to President Putin in Samarkand in September, this is not an era of war. The global economy is simply too inter-dependent for a significant conflict anywhere, not to have major consequences elsewhere,” Jaishankar said. “We are seeing growing concerns on energy and food security emanate from the conflict that is coming on top of severe stresses created by two years of Covid. The Global South, especially, is feeling this pain very acutely,” he said.
“India, therefore, strongly advocates a return to dialogue and diplomacy. We are clearly on the side of peace, respect for international law and support for the UN Charter,” Jaishankar noted. The external affairs minister also held comprehensive talks with Russian Deputy Prime and Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov which was held under the framework of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation.
At the joint media briefing with Lavrov, Jaishankar said India will be as helpful as it can be pertaining to issues like food grains and fertilizer shipments are concerned, or any other problem. “Indeed, I would say that for any initiative that de-risks the global economy and stabilises the global order at this stage; India will be supportive.,” he noted.
Asked about Western pressure on India’ on import of crude oil from Russia, Jaishankar said New Delhi’s fundamental obligation is to ensure that Indian consumers have the best possible access on the most advantageous terms to international markets.
“The fact that I am here today with a delegation to review our cooperation, to see how we can take it forward, to create a long-term sustainable basis, I think, says most of all,” he said.
“For us, Russia has been a steady and time-tested partner, and as I said, any objective evaluation of our relationship over many decades would confirm that it has actually served both our countries very, very well,” he said.
“So if it has served my country very, very well for many decades, I think you can see the obvious interest and commitment I would have in keeping that relationship strong and steady,” the minister noted.
As regards the oil supply issue, Jaishankar said there is stress on the energy markets which has been created by a combination of factors.
“But as today the world’s third-largest consumer of oil and gas, a consumer where the levels of income are not very high, it is our fundamental obligation to ensure that the Indian consumer has the best possible access on the most advantageous terms to international markets,” he said.
“In that respect, quite honestly, we have seen that the India-Russia relationship has worked to our advantage. So if it works to my advantage I would like to keep that going,” he said.
The external affairs minister said India and Russia have grappled with ways to expand bilateral trade and introduce more factors of long-term stability and growth. “Some of these discussions are now yielding results, accelerated by the stresses that the global economy is currently experiencing, including as a result of the Ukraine conflict. Minister Lavrov and I have noted the significant growth in our bilateral trade this year and focused on how to make it more sustainable,” he said.
At the same time, Jaishankar voiced concerns over trade imbalance and said he raised with the Russian side how to address the “impediments” that stand in the way of greater Indian exports to Russia.
“We reviewed the progress of our space and nuclear programs. It is also essential that our time-tested defence relationship continues to perform smoothly,” he said.
“Notably, our energy and fertilizer cooperation has been strengthening and our achievements of the last few years have become a foundation to do more. Foreign Minister Lavrov of course has spoken about some of these issues in his remarks,” he added.
Jaishankar said the talks also focused on terrorism and climate change challenges.

Must Read