Jaishankar says Russia major partner in many domains; discusses Ukraine, G20 and UN reforms with Lavrov
New York: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said that he had a wide-ranging conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov during which they discussed a number of issues, including bilateral cooperation, the Ukraine conflict, G20 and UN reforms as he described Russia a “major partner in many domains.”
Jaishankar made the remarks during his interaction with a group of Indian reporters after his meeting with Lavrov on the margins of the UN General Assembly session, just hours before his address to the UN General Debate on Saturday.
“We discussed a number of issues. Some part of my meeting was focused on our bilateral cooperation because Russia is a major partner in many domains,” Jaishankar said while responding to a question by PTI on his meeting with Lavrov.
“A wide-ranging conversation with FM Sergey Lavrov at #UNGA 77. Discussed our bilateral cooperation. Exchanged views on Ukraine, G-20 and UN reforms,” Jaishankar had tweeted after his meeting with Lavrov.
To another question, he said while “obviously” there are big issues, which focus both the Russians and the rest of the world, the relationship has to address its own requirements, processes and objectives.
“We spend some time on the bilateral side, where things are, taking stock,” he said, adding that they also spoke in “some detail” about issues related to Ukraine.
“A lot of it was he briefed me about various developments from the Russian perspective. I also shared with him what I picked up from some of the others. So that was a back and forth conversation,” Jaishankar said as he wrapped up the New York leg of his visit to the US.
He said there was also a discussion on the G-20, with India beginning the G-20 presidency this December. “Russia is very much at the centre of debate where G-20 is concerned. And finally, we spoke about the UN reform.”
The meeting in New York is the fourth between Jaishankar and Lavrov this year, including on the sidelines of the G-20 foreign ministers’ conclave in the Indonesian city of Bali and when Lavrov was in New Delhi earlier this year.
In his address to the UN General Assembly just an hour before Jaishankar’s speech, the Russian foreign minister voiced Moscow’s support for India and Brazil as “worthy candidates” for permanent membership in the UN Security Council, calling them “key international actors.”
Later, addressing a press conference, Lavrov said that “we view India and Brazil as strong candidates given, they are leading international players…”
India has been at the forefront of efforts at the UN to push for urgent long-pending reform of the Security Council, emphasising that it rightly deserves a place at the UN high table as a permanent member.
Jaishankar said that there has been a “shift” on the issue of UN reforms among the international community.
“In respect of UN reform, every General Assembly (session) you revisit that issue, but this time something has shifted. You can see that, you can sense that,” he told reporters, referring to remarks of US President Joe Biden earlier this week that the US supports increasing the number of both permanent and non-permanent representatives of the Security Council.
Jaishankar said that his Russian counterpart “explicitly” mentioned India from the General Assembly podium, a number of countries also referred to India in their statements.
Jaishankar added that it is not usual in a General Assembly for presidents, prime ministers or foreign ministers of a country to refer to another country.
“We’ve got some tailwind behind us. Now we have to see what we can make of it. I think it’s a welcome development. As someone who’s been coming here for many years, I do believe that it’s more than a subtle shift and I welcome it,” he said.
In response to a question on his meeting with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal this week on the UNGA margins and what were the concerns articulated by the leader, Jaishankar said “a big concern was the conflict itself. He gave me his perception, his assessment of what was happening in Ukraine”.
“In terms of India, we had a discussion on what was our position and my sense is that he clearly appreciated the fact that we were against the continuation of the conflict and for the return for dialogue and diplomacy,” he said, adding that Shmyhal had his own views on why this was not happening.
The humanitarian assistance issue was also discussed and Shmyhal brought up some specific aspects of the ground situation, which he believed were concerns for the international community as a whole, including discussion on the progress on the grain issue, the concern about fertilizers, and the nuclear power plant issue.
With the months-long Ukraine conflict raging on, Jaishankar on Saturday told the UN General Assembly that India is on the side of peace and on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out.
He underlined that it is in the collective interest of the international community to work constructively, both within the United Nations and outside, in finding an early resolution to this conflict.
“We are on the side that respects the UN Charter and its founding principles. We are on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out,” he said.
“We are on the side of those struggling to make ends meet, even as they stare at escalating costs of food, fuel and fertilizers.”
India has not yet condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and it has been maintaining that the crisis must be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue.
At various UN platforms like the UN Security Council and the General Assembly, India has mostly abstained on resolutions on the Ukraine conflict.
In his address, Jaishankar voiced concern over the sharp deterioration in the international landscape.
“The world is already struggling with challenges of post-pandemic economic recovery. The debt situation of developing (countries) is precarious.
“To this, is now added the rising costs and shrinking availability of fuel, food and fertilizers. These, along with trade disruptions and diversions, are among the many consequences of the Ukraine conflict.
He added that the repercussions of the ongoing Ukraine conflict have further heightened economic stresses, especially on food and energy.