Saturday 21 May 2022
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‘Ukraine situation, India’s trade with Russia can’t be linked’

The foreign minister said India’s position was not that the Russia-Ukraine conflict was not its problem; 'our position is that we are for peace'

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External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has made it clear that India’s foreign policy decisions are made in “national interest” and guided by the belief that the international order “must respect territorial integrity and sovereignty of states”. He said India called for an “immediate cessation of violence” and stood for peace.

“We are very clear on our principles. Our policy is very much guided by our belief that the international order must respect territorial integrity and sovereignty of states…” the foreign minister told the Rajya Sabha, responding to a question on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Jaishankar said India’s position is not that the situation involving Russia and Ukraine was “not our problem. Our position is that we are for peace”. In a written statement laid on the table of the Upper House, Jaishankar said the government has been able to safely bring home 22,500 Indian citizens and 147 foreign nationals belonging to 18 countries from Ukraine since February 2022.

The written statement, provided in response to a question raised by Kerala Congress MP Jose K Mani, also emphasised that India’s position on the Ukraine conflict has been “steadfast and consistent”. India has expressed deep concern at the “worsening situation” and called for an immediate cessation of violence and end to all hostilities, says the statement.

Responding to the supplementary question from Mani on the US describing India’s position as “somewhat shaky” among the countries against the Russian invasion and its possible implications on the India-US trade, Jaishankar said: “There is no question of linking the Ukraine situation to issues of trade”.

“Where our own position on Ukraine is concerned, it is very clear, it is based on six principles: One, that we call for an immediate cessation of violence and to all hostilities. We stand for peace. Two, we believe that there is no other way than a return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy. Three, we believe, we recognise that the global order is anchored on international law, UN charters and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states. Four, we call for humanitarian access to the conflict situation. Five, we ourselves give humanitarian assistance, we have given 90 tonnes of humanitarian assistance so far and we are looking at providing more, especially medicines. And six, we are in touch with the leadership of both the Russian Federation and Ukraine on this matter,” the foreign affairs minister said.

Besides the US and India, Australia and Japan are part of the grouping. Meanwhile, both in his oral and written submissions in the parliament, the Indian minister pointed out that since the hostilities broke out, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin thrice and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy twice.

“President Putin briefed the prime minister on the status of negotiations between the Ukrainian and Russian teams. (The) prime minister welcomed the ongoing negotiations between Russia and Ukraine and expressed hope that they would lead to cessation of the conflict. He suggested that a direct conversation between President Putin and President Zelenskyy may greatly assist the ongoing peace efforts,” Jaishankar said through the written statement.

The minister asserted that India was fully cognisant of “all changes” which are happening in the international order “including between Russia and China and between a lot of other countries”, responding to a supplementary question on whether India is in a position to tackle the shifting geopolitical alliances.

Responding to yet another supplementary question, Jaishankar said that the developments in India’s neighbourhood are “foremost in our attention”.

Jaishankar said he shared the observation when Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MP Naresh Gujral spoke about the “double game” being played by the West on meeting needs using Russian imports. Asked whether oil purchases can be made under the rupee-rouble arrangement, Jaishankar said, “(The) government is examining various aspects, including the payment aspect.”

However, the minister pointed out that less than 1% of Indian imports of crude oil is from Russia. “And many other countries import 10-20 times the amount of imports that we do. I share the member’s observation on this matter,” the minister said.

According to government sources, most of India’s crude oil imports are from West Asia (Iraq 23%, Saudi Arabia 18%, the UAE 11%). The US has also now become an important crude oil source for India (7.3%).

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