India, Germany discuss Ukraine situation

Berlin’s Foreign and Security Adviser says ‘there is a solid basis of commonality of view with our friends in India’

March 30, 2022 08:49 pm | Updated 11:08 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Rescuers work at a site of fuel storage facilities hit by cruise missiles, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Rivne region, in this handout picture released on March 29, 2022.  Photo: State Emergency Service of Ukraine via Reuters

Rescuers work at a site of fuel storage facilities hit by cruise missiles, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Rivne region, in this handout picture released on March 29, 2022.  Photo: State Emergency Service of Ukraine via Reuters

Germany would not “preach or teach” India about its position on Russia’s war in Ukraine but hoped that no “friendly country” would attempt to subvert sanctions put in place by the U.S., the European Union and partners against Russia, German Foreign and Security Advisor Jens Plotner said in Delhi on Wednesday.

Mr. Plotner, who met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar during his two-day visit said that while India had had some differences from the western countries on the war, he hoped that they could come to the “common conclusion” that Russia’s invasion, which he called a “blatant violation of international norms”, would not go “unchecked,” in his discussions in Delhi.

“Because, if this [Russian action] goes unchecked, I think it will be really devastating for all of us. And that is why I’m quite confident that although in the past there have been different ways of voting [at the United Nations], I do feel that that there is a solid basis of commonality of view with our friends in India,” Mr. Plotner told journalists on Wednesday prior to his meetings.

RBI, Bank of Russia talks

“We would we would very much like to see a situation where there is no backfilling on the sanctions that we operate and where no friendly country in the world takes the step of actually taking economic advantage of the war,” he said in response to a question from The Hindu about discussions between the Reserve Bank of India and Bank of Russia on building rupee-rouble payment mechanisms that would work around the sanctioned banks and financial entities so as to facilitate India-Russia trade and energy purchases.

The Ministry of External Affairs did not respond to the comments. In a tweet about meeting Mr. Plotner, Mr. Jaishankar said that “Understandably, our conversation focused around the Ukraine situation,” without giving any details. Government sources said New Delhi understood that the visit of Mr. Plotner and other high-level foreign dignitaries were for consultations on “ongoing bilateral, regional and multilateral issues,” but did not directly mention Ukraine.

“NSA [Doval] emphasised India’s consistent approach for the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law and our commitment to the U.N. Charter and the principles of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all States,” sources said.

The discussions are likely to be taken up at the coming “6th Inter-Governmental Consultations” in early May, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to travel to Berlin for talks.

Number of other visits to Delhi

Mr. Plotner’s visit coincides with a number of other visits to Delhi carrying a similar message on Russia, including U.S. Deputy NSA and sanctions strategist Daleep Singh, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who will be in Delhi on Thursday.

The visits carry particular significance as they precede Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Delhi on Thursday and Friday, where he is expected to brief India on the Ukraine war, peace talks in Turkey as well as possible payment mechanisms for facilitating trade, energy and defence purchases.

When asked about the Lavrov visit, Mr. Plotner said that it “could be useful” if New Delhi were to give him a “clear message” on ending the war in Ukraine. He added that while it would be “preposterous” for Germany to pre-empt the Russian Foreign Minister’s discussions he was quite confident that although [India and Germany] might have different approaches, we will still come to the common conclusion that this [war] cannot go unchecked.

Vocal discomfort in European capitals

The comments by the German official indicate a more vocal discomfort in European capitals with New Delhi’s position, including the Modi government’s refusal to criticise Russia’s actions, or to back western resolutions at the U.N. In an interview this week, a visiting EU special envoy said the European countries were “not pleased” by India’s abstentions at the U.N. and would have welcomed a different position. In addition, visiting dignitaries have expressed some disquiet, both publicly and privately, in talks about reports that the government is discussing buying discounted Russian oil, a move that could be seen as diluting or subverting the stringent sanctions regime announced by about 40 countries including the U.S., EU, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and others.

When asked about a possible double standard between European countries continuing to take Russia oil and gas while asking others like India to forego Russian energy supplies, Mr. Plotner stated that the difference was Europe, which has been traditionally tied to contracts with Russia, was now cutting down its intake, with a view to ending all imports from Russia in the next year, and stepping up the move towards renewable energy sources as well.

“As you see we are steadily decreasing, not increasing what we are buying from Russia. So our suggestion to our friends is that this might not be the time to do the contrary to what we are doing,” he said, adding that Germany hoped to give up Russian coal by year-end, significantly reduce dependency on Russian oil and totally renounce Russian gas.

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