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With a flurry of diplomatic activity in Delhi, Ukraine, sanctions and Russian oil trade in focus

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With a flurry of diplomatic activity in Delhi,  Ukraine, sanctions and Russian oil trade in focus
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US Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh

India's stand on Russian invasion of Ukraine has been the topic of attention and debate among different parties to the issue as much as among international observers. That India has taken a consistently neutral stand on the NATO-Russia divide about Ukraine, has encapsulated this position that comforts some and disappoints others. Of cardinal significance in this equation has been India's abstention from voting in UN forums, UNSC and UNGA being the prominent ones, one after another. That remaining so, the displeased group does not go to the extent of condemning India, but would rather only wish that India were more forthcoming in its rejection of Russia's ambitions.

An example of this attitude of willing to wound but afraid to strike can be seen in a reply by the European Union's Special Envoy for the Indo-Pacific Gabriele Visentin, who is one of the many diplomats on visit to India, to the Hindu in an interview. When asked whether he would say that India is genuinely neutral in this conflict , he said - albeit in typical diplomaetse - "in an extended notion of neutrality, let's say that India is keeping to its tradition of being able to talk to all the sides involved without taking positions in order to be free to deal with all the stakeholders". There is neither outright writing off nor positive approval.

Visentin is not the only diplomat in town around the Indian position on the Ukraine issue. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to visit New Delhi this week. This visit was not announced as a pre-scheduled one. However, the US Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh is also expected to be in Delhi on Thursday, which was reportedly scheduled ahead of the Russian foreign minister's visit, as cited by the Hindu.

As the chief strategist in Biden administration on anti-Russia sanctions, Singh's visit assumes significance and is likely to be read as US attempt to tilt India's stance on the Ukraine question as pro-US as possible.

Russia's Lavrov is scheduled to meet External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday. India's long-term military co-operation with Russia being well-known for what it is, India is seen as unwilling to sever those for the mere sake of symbolic condemnation of Russia, especially when even the US is stopping far short of an all-out military resistance against Russia in Ukraine.

Around the same time, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will also be in Delhi on Thursday and is set to share an event with minister Jaishankar.

Not to be left alone in the race, China will also make its presence in the flurry of activity with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi also to be in Delhi.

As for the EU, Ambassador Gabriele Visentin has already held talks with MEA and voiced an appeal for India's support for a joint position against Russia.

The parties in the Quad were not far behind in chasing India for a united stand against Russia. Representatives of Australia and Japan, both members of the Quad, have been in Delhi over the past weeks with persuasive missions on Ukraine question. Even during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida over a week ago, the shadow of India's stand on Ukraine could not escape being in discussion.

Also at issue, giving concerns to the western bloc, is New Delhi's overtures to Moscow on the oil front where the Russian offer to supply oil at discounted price is actively on the table. And to bypass the US sanctions on Russia, including proscription of Russian banks involved in international trade that will preclude transactions in dollars, Russia is preparing to receive payments in ruble. This will also result in such a rupee-ruble transaction being seen as virtually defeating US moves to cripple Russia through sanctions. But given the high volatility of the ruble, reports indicate that payments for oil will be made in rupee, pegged to the dollar and deposited in an Indian bank account.

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TAGS:India's stand on UKraine US Deputy NSA Daleep Singh India's purchase of Russian oil rupee-ruble trade 
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