New Delhi, Nov 7 (EFE).- Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar began a two-day official visit to Russia on Monday to strengthen bilateral commercial ties in the first trip to Moscow by a high-ranking Indian official since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Jaishankar plans to meet with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Trade Minister Denis Manturov during his trip to Moscow.
The visit is happening under the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC, foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said last week.
Jaishankar would hold talks with Lavrov focusing on bilateral, regional, and international issues, Bagchi told reporters.
The Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman refused to specify if the Ukraine conflict would figure in talks.
However, analyst Harsh V. Pant, the vice president at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), told EFE that the Russian invasion of Ukraine would figure in India-Russia talks due to “concerns in India on the continuation of the conflict.”
“From India perspective this is important to get a sense of what is the state of the conflict,” Pant said.
“India wants to have a sense of what is Russia thinking and whether India can possibly play some kind of role there,” he said. “India believes that it has something to offer here”
India has played neutral since the start of the conflict in Ukraine and refrained from condemning it before the UN General Assembly.
But Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his concern about the war public in September after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Some sectors interpreted these statements, which went beyond the usual Indian line of calling for diplomacy and dialogue, as a distancing from Russia.
India maintains a historic alliance with Moscow, one of its main military equipment suppliers, and has increased purchases of Russian oil.
Since last April, India’s purchases of Russian oil have gone from less than 2 percent to over 12 percent recently, making Russia one of the main suppliers of crude thanks to the discounts that New Delhi began to receive since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine.
Jaishankar’s trip comes months after Lavrov visited India in March, just a month after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Lavrov’s trip came under international scrutiny, with many interpreting the Indian neutrality as veiled support to Russia. EFE