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End Ukraine violence, India ready to contribute to peace efforts, Modi to Lavrov

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NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday reiterated his call for early cessation of violence in Ukraine during a meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, and conveyed India’s readiness to contribute in any way to peace efforts.

The Indian side has repeatedly called for respecting the UN Charter and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states. In his phone conversations with Russian and Ukrainian presidents in recent weeks, PM Modi has called for an end to the hostilities and a return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy.

Modi repeated his call for an end to violence when Sergey Lavrov met and briefed him on the situation in Ukraine, including the ongoing peace negotiations, according to an official statement. “Prime Minister reiterated his call for an early cessation of violence, and conveyed India’s readiness to contribute in any way to the peace efforts,” it said.

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Lavrov met PM Modi after his talks with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar. The interaction with the prime minister was significant as Modi has not met any of the Western leaders or senior officials who have travelled to New Delhi in the past two weeks for consultations on the Ukraine crisis.

Addressing a news conference, Lavrov said no pressure can affect Russia’s partnership with India, whose foreign policy reflects the country’s independence and focus on legitimate national interests. He said his talks with Jaishankar too reflected the specially privileged strategic partnership forged with India over many decades and bilateral cooperation in many areas, ranging from defence to investments.

“I believe that India’s foreign policy is characterised by independence and the concentration on the real national legitimate interests,” he said, adding that Russia has a similar policy and “this makes us…good friends and old partners”. The two countries always respect each other’s interests and try to accommodate such interests, he said.

“I have no doubt that any pressure will affect our partnership, but you know that others have been trying to suppress the relationship between India, Russia and China…and they are forcing others to follow their politics,” he added.

Earlier, in his opening remarks at his meeting with Jaishankar, Lavrov said: “Our Western colleagues like to reduce any meaningful international issue to the crisis in Ukraine. You know our position, we do not hide anything and we appreciate India is taking this situation in the entirety of facts and not just in a one-sided way.”

India has so far abstained on all Ukraine-related votes at UN bodies and has not joined the West in condemning the Russian invasion. Most of the Western leaders who visited India in recent days have strongly criticised Russia’s actions and emphasised the need for democracies to stand together against challenges to the rules-based international order.

Lavrov, who came to New Delhi days after a visit by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, noted during the news conference that the regional situation is “not perfect” and said Russia supports Indian efforts to “consolidate regional countries” and to promote mutually beneficial approaches in South Asia.

Asked about a possible role for India in mediating between Russia and Ukraine, Lavrov said he hadn’t heard “about such talks”, though India – which is not under the influence of “US dictates” and is “an important and serious country” – can support efforts to find a resolution.

India is Russia’s partner and has a “just and rational approach towards international problems”, and no one would be against it if India seeks to play a role that provides a resolution of the problem, Lavrov added.

During their meeting, Jaishankar and Lavrov considered the implications of recent developments on trade and economic ties, according to a statement from the external affairs ministry. Jaishankar said that India, as a developing economy, is concerned by global volatility in different domains.

“It is important for both countries that their economic, technological and people-to-people contacts remain stable and predictable,” the statement said.

Like the prime minister, Jaishankar emphasised the importance of cessation of violence and resolving disputes through dialogue, diplomacy and respect for international law, the UN Charter, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.

The ministers also discussed the situation in Afghanistan, Iran and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA).

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