Jaishankar and Truss were addressing the first India-UK Strategic Futures Forum on Thursday evening, shortly after the arrival of Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Delhi. Lavrov will hold a meeting with Jaishankar on Friday and also brief PM Narendra Modi about Russia’s position on Ukraine.
In their bilateral meeting, India and UK underlined the need to respect UN Charter, international law, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Later at the Forum, Truss was asked about India’s decision to buy oil from Russia despite Western sanctions. She said it was important to respect other country’s decisions about the issues they faced. “India is a sovereign country and I am not going to tell India what to do,’’ she said.
Jaishankar responded to the question saying it was interesting that there had been what looked like a campaign on this issue. “I was just reading a report today that said in the month of March Europe has bought 15 percent more Russian oil and gas than it did in the previous month. If you look at the major oil and gas buyers from Russia, I think you would find most of them are from Europe,’’ said the minister.
“When oil prices go up I think it’s natural for countries to go out into the market and look for good deals for their people. I am pretty sure if we wait for 2-3 months and look at who all are the big buyers of Russian oil and gas, I suspect the list won’t be any different from what it used to be and I suspect we won’t be in the top 10 of that list,’’ added Jaishankar.
Truss responded to Jaishankar’s remarks saying dependency on energy and technology takes time to address. “The important thing for me is that G-7 set a time table to end that dependency and send a strong signal to the market. But to say that years of policy that you have been through can be changed overnight…there have been some remarkable changes. Germany has changed its entire defence and energy policy. We need to continue to put pressure on Putin and ensure that sanctions remain even in the case of a ceasefire and withdrawal to ensure lasting peace,’’ she said.
Significantly, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was quoted as saying last week that a boycott of Russian energy could push Europe into recession. India has been riled particularly by the fact that Western sanctions have come with “carve outs’’ to avoid any impact on energy imports from Russia. “Russian banks that are main channels for EU payments for Russian energy imports have not been excluded from the SWIFT international payment system,’’ said a senior government official earlier this month.
Watch Watch: S Jaishankar’s plain-speak over Europe’s double standards on import of Russian oil