Focus on the role of New Delhi as Jaishankar heads to Moscow

Central Russia-Ukraine External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar flew to Moscow on Monday for a bilateral visit.

Most of his meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, including a bilateral meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov. There has been no news so far of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but this cannot be ruled out.

Jaishankar’s visit is gaining significance as it comes days before the G20 summit in Bali, scheduled for November 15-16. It will be the first time since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine that Putin and Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden, are in the same room.

Jaishankar’s journey is seen as an important moment, as Delhi He is described as a potential negotiator between the two sides. He had last visited Moscow in July 2021.

He learned that India had quietly intervened in the past few months, when there was a dead end. In July, India was lobbying with Russia over a shipment of grain from the Black Sea ports.

Many of these messages have been quietly delivered, and Delhi is positioning itself as a player with credibility on both sides. But this did not always work.

The Washington Post reported over the weekend that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi He had offered to help with peace talks in a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last month. But Zelensky rejected the offer, according to the report.

The report stated that according to a statement from Zelensky’s office, “Zelensky told him that Ukraine would not conduct any negotiations with Putin but said Ukraine was committed to a peaceful settlement through dialogue.” The statement indicated that Russia deliberately undermined dialogue efforts.

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But with winter approaching in the conflict zone, there is a sense that both sides want a ceasefire before early next year, when they can regroup and resume the conflict. This is seen by many as a potential ceasefire opportunity, and Delhi could be a mediator between the two sides.

For Delhi, the bilateral aspect is key. This is the first winter in the past three years, when Russia’s military supply lines are under strain due to the eight-month-old war in Ukraine, meanwhile, Indian and Chinese forces are stuck in a border standoff in eastern Ladakh.

For India, which is dependent on Russia for its defense supplies, this is the most important pillar of the relationship.

The new element is the energy relationship, as Russia reportedly became India’s largest supplier of crude oil in October 2022 as refineries ramped up purchases of seaborne oil at a discount. This added a new element to relations with Moscow, which did not go well with Ukraine as well as with Western partners.

Jaishankar’s visit is expected to consider this aspect as well, and officials said this will be part of his conversation with Manturov, his counterpart at the Indo-Russian Intergovernmental Committee for Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation, IRIGC-TEC.

“Issues related to bilateral economic cooperation, obviously, in various fields, will be discussed,” MEA spokeswoman Arindam Bagci said on Thursday before the visit.

Also important is that it is Modi’s turn to visit Russia this year, and if a possible visit comes next month, Jaishankar will be there to lay the groundwork.

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In the lead-up to Jaishankar’s visit, Putin was reckless about Modi and India. He had praised India by calling its citizens “talented” and “motivated”, a week after he praised Modi as a “true patriot”.

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