New Delhi: India on Thursday said it has established economic ties with Russia and the focus has been on stabilising these relations in view of the current circumstances, asserting that "political colouring" should not be attributed to the engagement.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi also said India has been "very open" about its economic relations with Russia and that discussions are underway on what kind of payment mechanisms can work between the two countries in the current situation.
The comments came amid uneasiness in some Western capitals over India not condemning yet the Russian aggression against Ukraine and New Delhi's decision to procure large volumes of discounted crude oil from Moscow.
"We have established economic relations with Russia. Our focus is on stabilising these established economic relations in the current circumstances. We have been very open about it," he said, in an indication that India will not buckle under any pressure to limit its economic engagement with Moscow.
Bagchi was replying to questions at a media briefing on Western pressure on India to limit its engagement with Moscow in view of the Russian attack on Ukraine.
The spokesperson referred to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's detailed statement on the issue in Parliament on Wednesday and said both India and Russia have been focusing on ensuring that the economic relationship remains stable.
Bagchi also cited continuing procurement of crude oil from Russia by Europe.
"Let me just emphasise that energy flows to Europe are continuing, fertiliser purchases have been insulated, there are such other examples also. So...political colouring should not be attributed to our actions," he said.
Bagchi suggested that each country sees its own needs, adding India's imports from Russia are less.
He said an inter-ministerial group headed by the finance ministry is looking at the impact of the western sanctions on Russia for trade between the two countries and how the bilateral economic relations can be stabilised.
"Discussions underway on what kind of payment mechanisms can work in the current circumstances," he said.
Bagchi said India has been pressing forcefully for an immediate cessation of hostilities and an end to violence in Ukraine.
"We encourage talks between Ukraine and Russia, including at the level of the presidents directly," he said adding "If India can be of any assistance in this matter, we will be glad to contribute."
"This was also precisely the message conveyed to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov when he was here a few days ago," Bagchi said.
Last week, US Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economics Daleep Singh also visited India.
Talking to reporters, Singh had cautioned that there will be consequences for countries actively attempting to "circumvent or backfill" American sanctions against Moscow and that Washington would not like to see a "rapid" acceleration in India's import of energy and other commodities from Russia.
Asked about Singh's comments, Bagchi did not give a direct reply.
The external affairs ministry spokesperson said Singh is also G-20 sherpa and there were broad-ranging discussions during his visit on contemporary economic issues that included India's forthcoming presidency of the grouping, infrastructure development, climate finance, critical technologies, and ensuring food security.
He also briefed us on the context, objectives and efficacy of US sanctions on Russia, Bagchi said.
He also said that the impact of Western sanctions against Moscow on India-Russia ties is not yet clear.
Asked about Air India suspended its flight from Delhi to Moscow over an insurance-related issue, Bagchi without going into the details of the issue suggested that there would be some impact of the sanctions on Russia.