Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov praised India for not judging the Ukraine crisis in a “one-sided way,” and said that the two countries would find ways to trade using local currencies.
“Our relations were very sustainable during many difficult times in the past,” the Russian foreign minister said during a visit to New Delhi Friday. “We appreciate that India is taking this situation in the entirety of facts.”
New Delhi faces intense pressure from Western countries to join them in taking tougher action against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
India has not condemned the invasion, abstaining from United Nations resolutions censuring Moscow and is pursuing deals to purchase crude oil from Russia at discounted prices, irking the United States and its allies.
Lavrov also met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who conveyed his country was ready to contribute to the peace efforts.
India’s foreign ministry said that during discussions with Lavrov, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar emphasized the importance of cessation of violence, ending hostilities in Ukraine and called for resolving differences through dialogue and diplomacy.
Lavrov, who arrived in India from China, which has also not condemned the invasion, is seen as trying to shore up support among Moscow’s two big Asian allies in the face of tough Western sanctions.
Talking to reporters after his discussions with the Indian foreign minister, Lavrov said that Moscow developed a system to trade in national currencies many years ago and that “more and more transactions” would be done through this mechanism for trade with countries such as India, bypassing the dollar, euro and other major currencies.
Lavrov said Russia is ready to supply India with any goods it wants. “I have no doubt that a way would be (found) to bypass the artificial impediments, which illegal, unilateral sanctions by the West create. This relates also to the area of military technical cooperation.”
More than two-thirds of India’s military hardware is of Russian origin and the supply of spares is critical for New Delhi, whose tense border standoff with China shows no sign of easing.
The Indian foreign ministry, in a statement, said that that during Friday’s discussions, Foreign Minister Jaishankar stressed that “it is important to both countries that their economic, technological and people-to-people contacts remain stable and predictable.”
India has defended its decision to pursue oil deals with Moscow, which is offering crude at discounted prices.
“When the oil prices go up, I think it is natural for countries to go out into the market and look for what are the good deals for their people,” Jaishankar said on Thursday. He pointed out that Europe has remained a major buyer of Russian oil and gas even after the crisis in Ukraine unfolded.
On Thursday, U.S. and British diplomats were in New Delhi to try to persuade India not to undermine the Western sanctions on Russia.
U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economics Daleep Singh, who met Indian officials in New Delhi, said Washington did not want to see a “rapid acceleration” in oil purchases from Russia or mechanisms that “are designed to prop up the ruble” or circumvent financial sanctions.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price, said at a briefing on Thursday that it is not seeking to change the relationships different countries have with Russia but to “do all we can to see to it that the international community is speaking in unison, speaking loudly against this unjustified, unprovoked premeditated aggression, calling for an end to the violence using the leverage that countries including India, have to those ends.”
India’s ties with Russia, which date back to the Cold War years, have remained strong, even as it has built close ties with the United States in recent years. India is a part of the Quad alliance along with the U.S, Japan and Australia.
Analysts say India is attempting a balancing act as it navigates ties with both sides. Although annual trade between India and Russia adds up to only about $9 billion, New Delhi depends on Moscow for much of its military hardware, while it sees its partnership with the U.S. and its allies as important to countering an aggressive China.