New Delhi: Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will make a two-day official visit to India, the union minister of external affairs informed. The visit – Thursday, March 31 and Friday, April 1- is the highest level of engagement between the Indian and Russian governments since Moscow launched its military offensive against Ukraine on February 24.
Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov will pay an official visit to New Delhi on 31 March -1 April 2022: Ministry of External Affairs
— ANI (@ANI) March 30, 2022
“Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, will pay an official visit to New Delhi on 31 March-1 April 2022,” the MEA said in a one-line statement on its website.
This meeting comes ahead of the 2+2 dialogues set to be held between India and US on 11 April. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will meet their counterparts Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.
According to reports, the Ukraine crisis is set to top the agenda when Lavrov travels to India for a short visit after meetings in China, people familiar with the matter had said on Monday. Lavrov is set to be in India days after a visit by China’s foreign minister Wang Yi, who too discussed the Ukraine crisis with his Indian counterpart.
In New Delhi, Lavrov is expected to hold talks with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar on 1 April. The people cited above said the agenda for the visit and other meetings were still being firmed up. However, the conflict in Ukraine and its fallout is expected to figure in the discussions, they said.
For the Russian side, the relationship with India – one of the few countries that has not publicly criticised President Vladimir Putin’s military operation against Ukraine – is seen as crucial.
The Russian side appreciates the position adopted by the Indian side at forums such as the UN, the people said.
The two sides are expected to discuss alternative payment mechanisms for defence and other deals to address the impact of sanctions imposed on Russian banks and entities by the US and its allies.
Apart from defence deals that are underway, such as the $5.4-billion contract for S-400 air defence systems, India is also considering a Russian offer to supply oil and other commodities at discounted rates.
A group of representatives of different ministries, headed by the finance minister, is assessing the possible impact of Western sanctions on India.
The Indian side will also host UK foreign secretary Liz Truss on 31 March, the day when Lavrov is expected to arrive in New Delhi.
Truss is expected to raise the Ukraine crisis with her Indian interlocutors as part of Britain’s ongoing efforts to support the government of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Lavrov’s visit will coincide with US Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh visit to India between 30-31 March.
German Foreign and Security Policy Advisor Jens Plotner is visiting India on Wednesday.
India has abstained on all Ukraine-related resolutions at UN bodies, though it has repeatedly called for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states to be respected. In his phone conversations with the Russian and Ukrainian presidents, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for an immediate cessation of violation and a return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue.