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29 Mar, 2022 09:03

UK's Truss to visit India amid Russia concerns

New Delhi has so far refused to join sanctions and declined to come out against Moscow
UK's Truss to visit India amid Russia concerns

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will visit India on Thursday as Western countries have been urging neutral states to change their stance on Russia over its attack on Ukraine and warning of repercussions for helping Moscow to bypass economic restrictions.

Truss and her Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, will discuss “bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest,” the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement on Monday.

India has called for peace in Ukraine, but refused to sanction Russia over its military campaign against its neighboring country. Russia and India have enjoyed close ties since Soviet times.

New Delhi abstained during the UN General Assembly vote to condemn Moscow in early March. Truss explained India’s stance at the time by reference to “some level of dependence on Russia,” suggesting that the UK should foster “a closer economic and defense relationship” with the Asian country.

Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, meanwhile, said the UK was “very disappointed” by India’s unwillingness to condemn Russia.

A similar point was made by Mira Rapp-Hooper, a senior US diplomat responsible for the Indo-Pacific region, who called India’s position this month “unsatisfactory,” but “totally unsurprising.”

India has championed the policy of non-alignment since its independence in 1947. Jaishankar said last week that the Ukrainian crisis can only be resolved through “dialogue and diplomacy.”

India is Russia’s biggest arms customer, with half of its total weapons imports coming from Moscow.

The Hindustan Times quoted sources as saying that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Jaishankar on April 1.

Moscow attacked Ukraine in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.

Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev says the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.