NEW DELHI: India’s position historically on Russia is well known and they are not going to change that, UK PM Boris Johnson said after his summit meeting with PM Narendra Modi on Thursday. The meeting, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said, included talks on the Ukraine issue on “convivial terms”.
Providing India’s version of the conversation, Shringla said Modi explained India’s position very clearly and there was no question of any pressure from the UK on energy ties with Russia. “PM Johnson explained UK’s position but there was no pressure. PM Modi said India wants dialogue and peace between Russia and Ukraine and that the conflict must stop. PM Modi emphasised on the resolution of the conflict in a manner that is satisfactory and said India is ready to do anything to facilitate peace and dialogue,” said Shringla.
That Johnson has reconciled himself to India’s position, at least in public, is significant as India remains under pressure from other “like-minded” partners like the US and Japan to review its stand which many in the West see as favourably inclined towards Moscow. In his recent virtual summit with Modi, President Joe Biden had asked India to not accelerate its oil imports from Russia and to abide by US sanctions.
Johnson was expected by many in Britain to use the much-anticipated talks on Ukraine to convince India to take a hard line on Russia but the UK PM seemed to suggest India was already doing enough. “India, and Modi in particular, has used very strong language on the Bucha killings. He has intervened several times with Putin to ask him what on earth is going on. India wants peace and also Russia out (of Ukraine). I totally agree with that,” said Johnson, in a press conference he held after the meeting, adding that India and UK are being encouraged by autocratic coercion to do more together.
Johnson, who spoke about Russian “barbarism” in Ukraine, also agreed with the assessment that Russia was focusing on the Donbas and south to claim an easy victory. He said Russian “victory” was a realistic possibility. “Yes, I mean, look, I think the sad thing is that that is a realistic possibility,” he said, but also added that Putin will not be able to conquer the spirit of the Ukrainian people.
Earlier in the day, Modi said in his press statement with Johnson that they stressed on dialogue and diplomacy for an immediate ceasefire and resolution of the problem in Ukraine and also reiterated the importance of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries. The two leaders also unequivocally condemned civilian deaths and expressed concern in the “strongest terms” over the conflict and humanitarian situation in Ukraine.
“They unequivocally condemned civilian deaths, and reiterated the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a peaceful resolution of the conflict, which was having severe implications across the globe, in particular for developing countries. They emphasised that the contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. They reaffirmed their willingness to provide humanitarian aid for the people of Ukraine,” said the joint statement.