In response to Russia’s request for equipment, parts, and products in short supply, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said Monday that the request was part of discussions going on “for some years now” and not something that happened after February 24 — the day when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Jaishankar also defended Moscow’s oil imports, saying the EU buys six times as much oil as India, with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock by his side.
It wasn’t about oil imports but rather the “global impact” of Russia’s “brutal war” against Ukraine, which, she said, has created problems for India too, with “energy supply” and “fertilizers”. Contrary to her remarks in Pakistan in October, the German Minister didn’t mention the UN’s role in J&K, even though Jaishankar said India would engage Pakistan bilaterally.
After their bilateral meeting, the two foreign ministers signed a mobility partnership pact covering global challenges like the Ukraine conflict, the Afghan situation and cross-border terrorism.
Jaishankar told reporters that the mobility pact will ease travel, study, and work between the two countries and is a “strong signal for a more contemporary bilateral relationship.”
Jaishankar also petitioned for the release of a baby girl who’s been in foster care in Germany for more than a year, Ariha Shah, whose parents are Gujarati. It’s important for her to be in her linguistic, religious, cultural, and social environment. She has a right to this,” he said. Having two kids of her own, Baerbock says the “well-being of the child is first”.
In response to reporters’ questions about Russia’s request for key products in short supply, Jaishankar said India-Russia trade is “quite small” but that it’s growing.
Over the past few years, we’ve talked about how to grow and expand our trade with Russia. Russia was one of our smallest trading partners. Generally, it’s around USD 12-13 billion. When you compare it to most European countries, most of them are multiple times. This isn’t something that started after February 24; it’s something that’s been going on for a while. “I’ve been involved in the discussion for eight years,” he said.
It’s hard to expand trade, especially with agricultural products, non-tariff and regulatory barriers. He heads a forum that includes a Russian deputy prime minister.
We’re currently discussing what both sides can import from each other… We’ve also given the Russians a set of products we think are very competitive, which we think should be getting access to the Russian market. “This isn’t a post-February 24 conversation,” the External Affairs Minister said.
Jaishankar said the EU imported more fossil fuel from Russia than the next 10 countries combined between February 24 and November 17. As an example, the oil imports in the European Union are six times what India imports… Gas is infinite because we don’t import gas whereas the European Union imports worth 50 billion Euros. I’m not single (out) any particular country, but even coal imports from Russia by the EU are 50 percent more than India’s,” he said.
Jaishankar reiterated India’s position that diplomacy and dialogue are the best way to resolve this conflict, and referenced Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that war isn’t the answer.
The two ministers discussed Afghanistan and Pakistan “fairly extensively,” he said. With Pakistan, Jaishankar said “the main challenge today is that we can’t have talks while there’s terrorism, and I think the Germans understood that”.
As for China, Baerbock, who’s visiting India for the first time as Foreign Minister, said they’re following a three-part strategy. In addition to being a partner, China is also a competitor and is becoming a systemic rival increasingly. China has changed a lot in the last few years, and… the exchanges with actors in the region are really important to us, especially India, our direct neighbor.”
The Indo-Pacific strategy will have more diversification. So far, we’ve been focusing a lot on China, but we’ve also had ties with India and Japan.”
She said of India, “We’ve both talked about how there’s a lot of potential for further cooperation, whether it’s economic or security. As Germans, we’ve seen what it means to be dependent on one country, one that doesn’t share your values.”
As the biggest democracy and emerging economy, India is a role model for many other countries around the world, she said, “We’re supporting both with this migration and mobility partnership. In the Ukraine context, she talked about India assuming global responsibility at this “difficult moment”.