British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is set to land in India on Thursday to urge Narendra Modi’s government to reduce its strategic dependence on Russia. But her arrival in New Delhi coincides with that of her sparring partner Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, who is also arriving in India for his first visit since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
India has been criticized by Western powers for not acting tough enough against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the UK is hoping for clear signals from the Modi government about its opposition to the invasion and support for the UN charter. US President Joe Biden recently described India’s position as “shaky”.
Truss will sign a joint strategic cyber partnership with India and sees this as a sign of the willingness of the two countries to increase cooperation on security.
India relies heavily on Russia for arms purchases, and Lavrov is reportedly keen to persuade India to buy more Russian oil at a discount. Discussions with Lavrov could also include formulating a rupee-rouble payment mechanism for India-Russia bilateral trade, a means of evading US sanctions.
As part of what is being billed as a diplomatic strike on Russia, Truss will meet with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
She should emphasize that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “underlines the importance of democracies working more closely together to deter aggressors, reduce vulnerability to coercion and strengthen global security.”
India, emphasizing its non-aligned status, abstained at the UN General Assembly in a key vote condemning the Russian invasion.
The State Department said Truss wants progress in talks to develop defence-related trade, including innovative security technology, and strengthen defense ties with the world’s largest democracy.
Before her arrival, Truss said: “Deeper ties between Britain and India will increase security in the Indo-Pacific and globally, creating jobs and opportunities in both countries.
“This is even more important in the context of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and underscores the need for free democracies to work more closely together in areas such as defense, trade and cybersecurity.
“India is an economic and technical powerhouse, the world’s largest democracy and a good friend of Britain, and I want to build an even closer relationship between our two nations.”
The UK and India will also agree to closer maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. The UK will join India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and become a leading partner on maritime security issues, coordinating work with key partners in Southeast Asia.
Strengthening ties with India has been a priority for Truss since he took on the role. The visit is her second as Minister of Foreign Affairs and her third as Secretary of State in 13 months: she also visited as trade secretary.
She will argue that the current volatility in oil and gas prices and concerns about energy security, stemming from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, demonstrate the need not to buy more Russian oil, but instead the importance of India’s green transition and steps towards energy self-sufficiency. that can speed up British technology.