Both Russia and the West are competing for Indian support in the wider geopolitical dispute triggered by the invasion of Ukraine.
31 March 2022
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, are both visiting India in competing efforts to strengthen ties with New Delhi as the war in Ukraine rages.
Ms Truss is holding talks with counterparts amid concern in the West about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reluctance to publicly condemn the actions of Russia – a long-standing ally dating back to the Cold War.
India, which is heavily reliant on Moscow for arms imports, has abstained in a series of votes in the United Nations on the issue.
Mr Lavrov will use his visit to push for closer trade links to help reduce the impact of economic sanctions imposed by the West on Russia following the invasion.
Earlier this month, India agreed to import three million barrels of heavily discounted Russian oil as Moscow was forced to drop prices due to the effect of international sanctions.
Although the amounts are relatively small, there are concerns that volumes could increase in the coming months, potentially weakening the impact of economic restrictions.
In a statement, Ms Truss said: “Deeper ties between Britain and India will boost security in the Indo-Pacific and globally, and create jobs and opportunities in both countries.
“This matters even more in the context of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and underlines the need for free democracies to work closer together in areas like defence, trade and cyber security.
“India is an economic and tech powerhouse, the world’s largest democracy and a great friend of Britain, and I want to build an even closer relationship between our two nations.”
Ms Truss will use her visit to confirm £70 million of UK investment funding to support the development of renewable energy in India, which remains one of the world’s biggest users of hydrocarbons.
She will also announce a new joint cybersecurity programme aimed at protecting online infrastructure in both countries from attacks.
Since taking office in 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set great store by building relations with India, and last year struck a landmark agreement with Mr Modi to strengthen ties over the coming decade.