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‘Independent and balanced’: Russia welcomes Indian stand on Ukraine crisis

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FEBRUARY 23, 2022

Ukraine crisis: Russia said India is playing the “vital role of a responsible global power”, and has adopted an “independent and balanced approach to global affairs”. (Reuters File Photo)

NEW DELHI: Russia welcomes India’s “independent and balanced” approach to global affairs, including the situation in Ukraine, and the fallout of the crisis won’t impact bilateral cooperation in areas such as defence, Russian chargé d’affaires Roman Babushkin said on Wednesday.

Babushkin, the senior-most Russian diplomat in New Delhi as the new envoy is yet to present his credentials, told a virtual briefing on the Ukraine crisis that the India-Russia strategic partnership is based on mutual trust and respect and both sides take each other’s concerns “very seriously”. Both countries also don’t “interfere in domestic affairs”.

“We welcome the independent position India has taken in the UN Security Council twice already [and] which was expressed openly by the Indian external affairs minister and other officials,” Babushkin said, referring to statements made by the Indian side at two Security Council meetings on the Ukraine crisis.

India, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, is playing the “vital role of a responsible global power”, and has adopted an “independent and balanced approach to global affairs”, he said.

India’s stance at the Security Council reflects the “our special and privileged strategic partnership and fully corresponds to Indian aspirations” to enhance its status in global affairs, he added.

Responding to a question on the impact of Western sanctions on India-Russia defence cooperation, Babushkin said such punitive measures will negatively affect Russia’s economy and banking system and lead to more instability because of an “atmosphere of mistrust and continuous fear”.

“We keep in mind the possibility of negative influence of sanctions with regard to our cooperation in particular affairs, including defence. But at the same time, when it comes to our case with India, we have very strong and [long-standing] trusted cooperation…,” he said.

“We continue our work with our Indian partners in defence. We have big plans and we hope that our partnership will continue further at the same level we are enjoying today,” he said, adding that Russia will a “huge participation” in India’s upcoming Defexpo exhibition.

Russia remains open to sharing sophisticated technologies with India, and bilateral defence cooperation is a “strong factor of international peace and stability and to the full extent reflects the national interests of both countries”, he said.

India is among the few countries that haven’t criticised Russia’s actions of massing troops along the borders with Ukraine. At the UN Security Council, India has only expressed deep concern at the escalation of tension and called on all parties to exercise “utmost restraint” while stepping up diplomatic efforts to find a solution that ensures the “legitimate security interests” of all countries.

However, India’s position has been questioned by Western commentators in recent days, with some pointing out the country is the only member of the Quad that has not criticised Russia. The other members of Quad – Australia, Japan and the US – have announced sanctions on Russia, while India has made it clear it doesn’t have a policy of sanctions.

Russia continues to be the largest supplier of major military hardware to India, and it began supplying the S-400 air defence system to India late last year, coinciding with a visit by President Vladimir Putin to New Delhi for an annual summit. During the summit in December, the two sides signed an agreement for a programme for defence cooperation over the next 10 years.

Babushkin said Russia has learnt to live with sanctions. “Sometimes it is even beneficial to Russia, because we have learnt how to live independently, not relying too much on Western technologies and financial resources,” he said. He added there are a lot of big defence projects in the pipeline and Russia has “full confidence that all our plans will be successfully implemented”.

India and Russia “don’t threaten each other with unilateral sanctions and don’t interfere in domestic affairs”, and their cooperation “doesn’t represent any threat to anyone”, he noted. “At the same time, we keep moving shoulder to shoulder in our big task to establish just and equal multi-polarity based on globally recognized principles, international rules and the central role of the UN,” he said.

Referring to the situation in Ukraine, Babushkin said Russia has always been in favour of dialogue, and waited for seven years from 2015 for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, which had halted fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine and created a framework for talks.

“We still are ready for dialogue,” he said, noting that Russia unveiled its “red lines” for talks in December – non-expansion of NATO, security guarantees and the demilitarization of Ukraine. Such a dialogue should be mutually respectful and equal, and take into account the interests of all states, he said.

Babushkin alleged the Ukrainian government is “not willing to implement” the Minsk Agreements. Welcoming the initiatives by France and Germany to resolve the crisis, he said, “Along with that, we would expect our Western partners to be more concrete on the Russian red lines. They should refrain from rhetoric and unilateral and motivated policies, and respect international law and commitments.”


Courtesy/Source: Hindustan Times

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