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“Russia’s Actions Have Never Harmed Our Interests,” S Jaishankar Tells German Daily

February 20, 2024
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New Delhi: India and Russia share a “stable and very friendly” relationship and Moscow has “never hurt out interests”, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told German daily Handelsblatt this week, defending long-standing ties between the two nations as the West pushes to end the war in Ukraine.

The comments come amid muffled whispers New Delhi might help resolve violence that, according to United States intelligence from December suggests has killed over 70,000 – civilian and military.

“Everyone conducts a relationship based on past experiences. If I look at the history of post-independence India, Russia has never hurt our interests. We have always had a stable and very friendly relationship… and our relationship with Moscow today is based on this experience.”

India-Russia ties have been under scrutiny since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February 2022, triggering weapons aid for Kyiv from the West, and financial sanctions by the United States and Europe, including those on the purchase of Russian crude oil. A pragmatic Indian government, however, has continued its purchases, at sizeable discounts, to feed an oil-hungry economy.

Mr Jaishankar, in Germany’s Munich for a security meet, told Handelsblatt (behind paywall) he sees no alternative, at this point, to buying Russian crude oil; he has repeatedly defended India on this topic.

He also pointed out that after sanctions were imposed on Russia richer Western countries – unlike Delhi – could afford to buy from Middle East suppliers – at consequentially inflated prices, and that India continuing to purchase from Moscow and moderated international oil prices.

“If no one bought crude oil from Russia, and everyone bought crude oil from other countries, the prices on the energy market would have shot up even further,” he told the German publication.

Mr Jaishankar has previously also pointed out that India’s Russian oil purchases are marginal compared to volumes purchased earlier by European nations.

Every country, he told NDTV in August last year, is trying to get the best possible deal for its citizens, and to cushion the impact of high energy prices, and explained that India was no different.

A year earlier, months after the war broke, he said, “… if you are looking at energy purchases from Russia, I suggest you focus on Europe. We do buy some… which is necessary… but I suspect our total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon.”

The comment was made with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken by his side.

On a question about the West not supporting India during the military stand-off with China in Ladakh in June 2020, Mr Jaishankar said he did not expect the West to understand the nuances of India’s relationship with China, just as he might not appreciate subtexts in their ties with Beijing.

“My point is… just as I do not expect Europe to have a view of China identical to mine, Europe should understand I cannot have a view of Russia identical to the European one. Let us accept there are natural differences in relationships…” the Union Minister, in Munich for a security conference, said.

Mr Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, had a brief interaction in Munich on Saturday; this was as the Chinese minister was exiting stage and the Indian leader was walking on.

Last month, Mr Jaishankar while speaking at an event in Mumbai, described global politics as a “competitive game” and stressed India should never be “scared” of China.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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