EAM Jaishankar strongly defends India ties with Moscow

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Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau
WASHINGTON DC, 21st Feb.
India External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday said as India does not expect Europe to have a view of China identical to its own, the Western world should understand that India cannot have a view of Russia identical to its own, in an interview to a leading German economic daily, Handelsblatt during the Munich Security Conference.

Jaishankar strongly defended India’s strong ties with Moscow, he has asserted that just as India does not expect Europe to have a view of China that is identical to its own, the Western world should understand that India cannot have a view of Russia that is identical to the European one.

“Let us accept that there are natural differences in relationships,” he told German economic daily, Handelsblatt during his visit for the Munich Security Conference.

He underlined the fact that every country conducts a relationship based on its past experiences.

Jaishankar said Russia has never hurt India’s interests while the relations of powers like Europe, the US, China or Japan with Russia have all seen ups and downs.

“We have had a stable and always very friendly relationship with Russia. And our relationship with Russia today is based on this experience. For others, things were different, and conflicts may have shaped the relationship. We, on the other hand, had a politically and militarily much more difficult relationship with China, for example,” he added.

He did not agree with a suggestion that India’s ties with Russia have caused a strain on India-Europe relations. Both sides have communicated their positions clearly and have not emphasized their differences.

Mr Jaishankar recalled that when the fighting started in Ukraine, Europe shifted a large part of its energy procurement to the Middle East until then the main supplier for India and other countries.

“What should we have done? In many cases, our Middle East suppliers gave priority to Europe because Europe paid higher prices. Either we would have had no energy because everything would have gone to them. Or we would have ended up paying a lot more because you were paying more. And in a certain way, we stabilized the energy market that way,” he added.

He said ”In terms of inventory, yes, because many Western countries have long preferred to supply Pakistan, and not India. But that has changed in the past ten or fifteen years with the USA, for example, and our new purchases have diversified with the USA, Russia, France and Israel as the main suppliers,” when pointed out that Russia is still the most important arms supplier to India.

Whether India like Europe support in the border conflict with China in 2020, Jaishankar said ”My point is: just as I do not expect Europe to have a view of China that is identical to mine, Europe should understand that I cannot have a view of Russia that is identical to the European one. Let us accept that there are natural differences in relationships.”

On India-EU to resume negotiations on a free trade agreement, he said FTAs are very complex, and one with the EU is the most complex in the world for any country because it also discusses many non-trade issues.

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