Jaishankar’s Moscow Mission: Trade, oil, defence top agenda

Enhancing trade, connectivity and defence ties will top the agenda of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s four-day visit to Moscow, which will begin on December 25.

Dr Jaishankar will hold wide-ranging talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and is also expected to call on President Vladimir Putin. Given that this year’s annual leaders’ summit between Russia and India will not take place, Jaishankar’s visit has taken on an added significance. Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s international travels have been curtailed. The last annual summit between Russia and India took place in New Delhi in December 2021.

“Jaishankar’s visit to Moscow demonstrates the importance India attaches to deepening relations with Russia in the midst of the Ukraine war. The visit to Russia also sends a clear message to the West that India will continue to deepen relations with Russia despite the West’s criticism,” said Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India and the World and CEO, Centre for Global India Insights, a think tank focused on global affairs.

The foreign ministers of India and Russia are expected to finalize agreements related to trade, energy and infrastructure. The two sides are negotiating an agreement that would let Russia invest in many Indian industries, excluding the stock market.

India has also become a top buyer of Russian crude oil alongside China since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and sanctions that followed in its wake. About 70 million tonnes of oil were supplied to India this year.

The two sides will explore ways to enhance bilateral trade and prioritize the implementation of connectivity projects like the International North-South Transport Corridor and the proposed Chennai-Vladivostok shipping route. Coal, oil, fertilizers, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) are among the goods that can be transported via the Chennai-Vladivostok route.

India’s substantial energy purchases from Russia have tipped the scales of bilateral trade in favor of Moscow. In the forthcoming meeting in Moscow, the two ministers are expected to discuss concrete proposals to achieve more balanced trade, which includes increased Indian investment in Russia.

The Russian side will brief Jaishankar on the current state of affairs in Ukraine, where thousands of people have died since the Russian attack on Ukraine in February 2022. India has not overtly condemned the Russia-Ukraine war and abstained from UN resolutions criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. India has consistently advocated dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the Russia-Ukraine war.

While the conflict in Ukraine has not significantly impacted Russia’s work on the Kudankulam nuclear power project, Moscow has experienced delays in delivering some essential defense hardware, most notably the S-400 air defense systems, since last year. This issue is expected to come up in the foreign ministers’ talks. The two parties will also reexamine their national currency trade to circumvent the issue of substantial rupee reserves in vostro accounts run by Russian exporters as well as the Western sanctions placed on Russia.

With Russia chairing BRICS in 2024, the two ministers will discuss ways to enhance cooperation within this plurilateral grouping. Islamabad has applied for membership of BRICS. India is expected to convey its unease with further expansion of the grouping which has now 11 members after the expansion of BRICS at the Johannesburg summit in August 2023.

(Juhi Sharma contributed inputs for this article)



Author Profile

India Writes Network
India Writes Network
India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) is an emerging think tank and a media-publishing company focused on international affairs & the India Story. Centre for Global India Insights is the research arm of India Writes Network. To subscribe to India and the World, write to editor@indiawrites.org. A venture of TGII Media Private Limited, a leading media, publishing and consultancy company, IWN has carved a niche for balanced and exhaustive reporting and analysis of international affairs. Eminent personalities, politicians, diplomats, authors, strategy gurus and news-makers have contributed to India Writes Network, as also “India and the World,” a magazine focused on global affairs.