India watching neighbourhood post Ukraine war

New Delhi, March 24 : The government on Thursday said that “realignment in the immediate neighbourhood” in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict is “foremost in its attention” and is being monitored carefully. “What is happening in our neighbourhood obviously is foremost in our attention. A lot of developments are taking place and we are monitoring them very, very carefully,” External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told the Rajya Sabha. The Minister was responding to a question by RJD’s Manoj Jha who wanted to know if the government was aware of a realignment in India’s neighbourhood. Responding to another question on growing proximity between Russia and China, the Minister said: “We are aware of a lot of changes in international relations including Russia and China and a lot of other countries. We monitor and assess it from our national perspective and fashion our strategies in accordance with those developments.” Asked by Kerala Congress (Mani) member Jose K Mani, Jaishankar said: “Indian foreign policy decisions are made in Indian national interests. We are guided by our thinking, our views and interests, so there is no question of linking the Ukraine situation to issues of trade.” The Minister said that India’s position on Ukraine was very clear and was based on six principles. “India calls for immediate cessation of violence and hostilities. We believe that there is no other way then return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy. “We believe and we recognise the global order is anchored on international law, UN Charter and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states. We call for humanitarian access to a conflict situation,” he said. “We ourselves give humanitarian assistance. We have given 90 tonnes of humanitarian assistance so far and are looking at providing more specially medicines. We are in touch with the leadership of both Russia and Ukraine. The Prime Minister himself has spoken to both the Presidents,” Jaishankar added. On India willing to purchase crude oil from Russia, Akali Dal member Naresh Gujral said the West buys oil from Moscow and gives New Delhi a lecture. Responding to Gujral, Jaishankar said: “I share the observations of the member.” He said that because of the emerging problems in dealing with Russia, “the government is examining various aspects including the payment aspect”. “There is a group within the government of different ministries led by the Finance Ministry to examine these matters. In fact we import very little oil from Russia, less than 1 per cent of our imports. And many other countries import 10-20 times amount of oil that we do from Russia,” Jaishankar added. Responding to a question by Swapan Dasgupta, Jaishankar clarified that India’s position on Russia-Ukraine war was never as if it was not New Delhi’s problem. “Our position is that we are for peace. When the PM talked to Putin three times and Zelensky twice, the evacuation of students was a very big issue, but there was also a larger conversation on what we could do to encourage a cessation of hostilities and a return to dialogue and diplomacy,” he said. “Today, that sentiment is widely shared by many countries and I think we articulated it very strongly.” ASU MR

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