Just ahead of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to India this week, the Biden administration is sending its chief strategist on sanctions against Russia for the war in Ukraine, Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh. Mr. Singh is due to be in Delhi for meetings on Thursday, while Mr. Lavrov will hold meetings with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and other officials on Friday, after arriving from Beijing where he is attending a conference on Afghanistan.
The U.S. Deputy NSA’s visit also coincides with that of British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who will hold meetings at South Block and address a think tank event jointly with Mr. Jaishankar on Thursday, and comes amidst a flurry of visits by a number of countries, including China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, keen to discuss India’s stand on the Ukraine crisis. In particular, Mr. Singh is visiting Delhi one week after U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland visited for meetings about the Ukraine crisis, and ahead of India-U.S. “2+2” Foreign and Defence ministerial consultations that will take place in Washington in mid-April.
Rush of visitors
When asked whether the Deputy NSA’s visit, which has not yet been announced, had been timed so as to pre-empt discussions with Mr. Lavrov, an official said Mr. Singh’s travel plans had been “made before reports about the Russian Foreign Minister had appeared”. However, it is clear that the number of visitors to the Ministry of External Affairs and the National Security Council in the past month is unprecedented, with the U.S.’s European and Quad partners Japan and Australia making public comments about Russia, and indicating clearly that they hoped to change India’s position, where it has abstained at the United Nations on Ukraine resolutions, and is now working on payment mechanisms to mitigate the impact of Western sanctions against Russia on Indian trade and energy purchases.
As The Hindu had reported earlier this week, Mr. Lavrov’s visit to Delhi is expected to brief the government on Russia’s action in Ukraine, the peace talk, and will also focus on the Russian offer of discounted oil for India, something the government is said to be considering strongly. In addition, a team from Russia’s Central Bank is in India this week to discuss payment mechanisms using Indian and Russian banks, and Rupee-Rouble transactions to avoid the growing number of sanctions placed by the European Union, the United States, and partners, adding up to more than 40 countries in all.
On Monday, the European Union’s special envoy on Indo-Pacific, Gabriele Visentin, held talks with the Ministry of External Affairs, and apart from discussing the EU’s “strategic compass”, spoke about the European call for support for its joint stand against Russia.
When asked about Mr. Lavrov’s impending visit, and discussions in Delhi on how to strengthen alternative payment mechanisms for trade between India and Russia, Mr. Visentin told The Hindu that the EU was “not pleased” with India’s abstention votes while the EU cannot tell New Delhi what to do, it “[would] not welcome any act, which would help Russia to circumvent the U.S., its partners and the EU’s sanctions regime.” Significantly, the EU’s Mission in South Delhi flies a banner representing the Ukrainian flag colours of blue and yellow, and Mr. Visentin wore a blue and yellow ribbon in solidarity with Ukraine during the ongoing war.
Mr. Singh, who was recently appointed U.S. President Joe Biden’s Deputy National Security Adviser for international economics, has been tasked with formulating and implementing the U.S. sanctions against Russia, and is expected to reinforce that message delivered by the EU and U.K. officials. The sanctions thus far include financial bans on banks, companies and individuals close to the Kremlin, as well as targeted sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin, his Cabinet and Duma (Parliament) members. The 46-year old economic analyst Mr. Singh who was previously in former President Barack Obama’s treasury team, has worked on sanctions against Russia in the past as well, in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea.