Diplomatic buzz in Delhi

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US Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh is in New Delhi at the same time as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, reports Arul Louis

As diplomatic efforts over India’s position on Ukraine heat up, US Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh is in New Delhi at the same time as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss are expected there on Thursday.

Singh, who is the architect of US economic sanctions on Moscow, “will consult closely with counterparts on the consequences of Russia’s unjustified war against Ukraine and mitigating its impact on the global economy”, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said on Wednesday.

India has stayed neutral on seven Ukraine-related resolutions at the United Nations – including one on which the US also abstained – although New Delhi has criticised Russia’s invasion obliquely by emphasising “the need to respect the UN Charter, international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states”.

Also in India is Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, the Foreign Minister of Mexico which sponsored along with France a resolution in the General Assembly on the Ukraine humanitarian situation.

India abstained on that resolution but it was passed by an overwhelming majority.

All sides to the Ukraine crisis are seeking India’s backing and this has led to senior diplomats converging on New Delhi.

Last week, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi went to India and on Wednesday German Foreign and Security Policy Advisor Jens Plotner was there.

Although China has extended an uneasy support to Russia, it has said at the UN that developing countries should not be pressured to pick sides.

Although Singh’s role is seen mainly as President Joe Biden’s sanctions chief, Bedingfield sought to soften the focus on that aspect indicating that his discussions in New Delhi will go beyond Ukraine.

Despite Biden calling India’s position on the Russian invasion “somewhat shaky” and several US politicians criticising New Delhi for not voting at the UN to condemn Moscow and for planning to buy oil from that country, Washington sees India’s pivotal role in the Indo-Pacific in its strategy of countering China’s aggressive posture.

The Indo-Pacific will figure in the discussions of Singh, said Bedingfield who was substituting at the daily briefing for White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki, who has tested positive for Covid-19 a second time despite being vaccinated.

He will hold consultations “to deepen cooperation to promote inclusive economic growth and prosperity and a free and open Indo Pacific and the development of an Indo Pacific economic framework,” she said.

His visit will “continue our ongoing consultations with the Government of India and advance a range of issues in the US India economic relationship and strategic partnerships” and discuss Biden’s priorities “including the promotion of high-quality infrastructure to build back better worlds”, she added.

On Wednesday, Singh met with Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, who tweeted that they “discussed at length steps for further deepening India-US economic & strategic ties. Our complementary partnership will help us build resilient economies in a dynamic world order”.

Psaki has said that India buying oil from Russia will not violate US sanctions on Russia.

Germany and several European allies of the US continue to buy energy from the US without recriminations.

However, India’s purchase of the Triumf S-400 missile defence system from Russia despite US discouragement puts it in the crosshairs of sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) law.

Reflecting the West’s dilemma over India’s position of being trapped by its dependence on Russian arms, Plotner told reporters, “We would have welcomed to have India in our camp. This having been said, everybody has his own geography, everybody has his own geopolitical setting in which it must evolve.”

India’s External Affairs Ministry announced the visits of Lavrov and Truss, but was silent on Singh’s trip.

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