Lavrov & Jaishankar: Presser
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Minister of External Affairs of the Republic of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Moscow, November 8, 2022
Ladies and gentlemen,
We held meaningful and practical talks with Minister of External Affairs of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in a traditional friendly and sincere atmosphere. Our countries are united by historical ties that represent mutual respect, self-sufficiency and immunity to the fluctuations of the geopolitical environment.
We agreed that the strengthening of the Russia-India privileged and strategic partnership meets the vital interests of our nations and helps maintain international and regional security and stability. We were pleased to note the rhythmic, regular and intensive character of our political dialogue at both the top and Foreign Ministry levels.
We were happy to note the positive dynamics in trade. By September 2022, trade was 133 percent of the same period in 2021, at almost $17 billion. We are confident that we will soon bring it to $30 billion, reaching a goal set by the Russian and Indian leaders.
We agreed that the Intergovernmental Russian-Indian Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation plays a key role in our trade, economic, investment, logistics, transport and high-tech cooperation. Today, Mr Jaishankar held a meeting with his counterpart – Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov (both are co-chairs on the commission). Mr Jaishankar described the dialogue as useful and substantive.
We discussed in detail the status of and prospects for the ongoing talks on launching the North-South international transport corridor and other aspects related to logistics in our common region.
We noted good prospects of energy cooperation, including an increase in Russian hydrocarbon exports to the Indian market and mutual participation in the plans for extraction, in part in the Far East and on the Arctic shelf of the Russian Federation. We talked about effective cooperation in civil nuclear industry, in part, the successful construction of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. We discussed further steps in this area, in part, a site for building another Russian-designed nuclear power plant that can provide India with clean and safe energy in the future.
We discussed in detail the status and prospects for military-technical cooperation and joint production of modern weapons. We attach much importance to space exploration in such areas as satellite navigation, space science and manned programmes.
We emphasised the importance of intensive talks on signing a free trade agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union and India.
We praised our interaction in the world arena, including at the UN, BRICS, the SCO and the G20, as well as other multilateral platforms.
We paid much attention to the developments in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa.
For our part, we confirmed our high assessment of the position of our Indian friends on the situation in Ukraine and around it. We informed Mr Jaishankar about the course of the special military operation, aimed at reaching the goals set by President of Russian Vladimir Putin in his speech on February 24 of this year.
We discussed the situation that had taken shape due to the attempts of our Western colleagues to strengthen their dominant role in world affairs and prevent democratisation of international relations under the pretext of the developments in Ukraine.
I believe the talks were productive and confirmed our mutual striving to promote interaction in all areas. We will continue our contacts, in part, at the upcoming ASEAN and G20 multilateral events.
Question: The situation in Afghanistan continues to be a source of concern for both India and Russia. What do you think about future cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi on the Afghan issue in the context of today’s discussion?
A regular session of the Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan is scheduled for mid-November. Apparently, the new Afghan authorities have not been invited to this meeting even though the Taliban took part in the Moscow format session in 2021. Please, comment on this decision. Why was it made?
Sergey Lavrov: As we noted in our opening remarks, we had discussed in detail the situation in Afghanistan and the tasks facing the international community in its efforts to help the Afghan people stabilise the situation and achieve national accord on the future of their country.
We are working with the Taliban in our ministry. Our Indian friends are also taking the necessary steps in this area. We have not yet achieved the desired result. We do not believe our colleagues that are in power in Kabul are moving fast enough in fulfilling their announced commitments to their people. I am referring to the need to consolidate the ethno-political unity of the Afghan people and ensure the inclusive character of power in the country. We continue working in this vein. Thus, a regular Moscow format session will take place as early as next week. Our Indian partners will be represented, as will the other participants in these sessions.
We maintain regular contact with the Taliban representatives that will be told about the agenda of the Moscow format meeting. We have no secrets from them. We will conduct a detailed briefing for both the Taliban and the other political forces in Afghanistan.
Question: Can you please describe what you see as the development priorities for the SCO today? Are they security issues or the need to promote economic cooperation?
Could you tell us about the progress on BRICS expansion so far? Have concrete dates been set for admitting new members to BRICS, in particular, Algeria, Iran and Argentina? What industries or sectors might contribute to facilitating the admission of these countries? Can you list any countries that might, in the near future, also expect to be admitted to BRICS?
Sergey Lavrov: Being a diverse association, the SCO addresses, among other issues, security matters, which this organisation was initially created for, that is, to ensure order along the borders of the Central Asian countries, the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. This objective has long since been successfully achieved.
As the SCO evolved, not only has it paid increasingly more attention to the issues of heading off and neutralising new challenges and threats, such as terrorism, extremism and separatism, but it has also capitalised on its comparative advantages. The SCO member countries, which occupy the larger part of Eurasia, are keen to use these advantages to develop their economic ties, boost trade and create additional transport infrastructure that will help minimise costs, increase profits and provide benefits to each of our countries.
If, in addition to land routes, we consider the possibilities of using the Northern Sea Route, it will make prospects look impressive. We are working with our Indian friends on this, that is, using the Northern Sea Route and hydrocarbon deposits that are located on Russia’s shelf.
I would like to note that, in addition to cooperation in ensuring security and stability, and promoting economic and investment ties, and infrastructure projects in our common region, cooperation in education and culture within the SCO is also being developed, including among political science centres and culture ministries. Exchange programmes, exhibitions and concert tours are obviously in demand.
As an institution, BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – is equally useful, and we need it just as much. Interest in this global association is high and continues to grow. You mentioned several countries, including Algeria, Argentina and Iran, which are showing an interest in this format. In reality, there are over a dozen countries like this. Last June, a regular BRICS summit took place in a video conference format, with China holding the BRICS Presidency. In addition to the event per se, during which the leaders of the five countries discussed this association’s internal affairs and approved a declaration where they outlined their plans for the future, a summit in a BRICS+ format was held. In addition to the five BRICS countries, it was attended by the leaders of 13 countries. These countries are well known, and they include nations representing all, without exception, developing regions in the world: Asia, Africa and Latin America. We welcome their interest.
Before we give specific details as to how and when BRICS might expand, we, the five BRICS countries, have agreed to coordinate the criteria and principles that we should be guided by when considering applications. We have already received some official applications for membership. Given this, we expect the work on coordinating the criteria and principles that should underlie BRICS expansion to not take much time, but first, we need to understand how this association will continue to develop in a potentially expanded format.
Friends of the Press
As you all know, I am here in Moscow to hold my regular consultations with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. I also met Deputy Prime Minister, Denis Manturov, who is my counterpart as the co-Chair of the Inter-Governmental Commission that we both head. We of course, are still in the midst of our discussion. We have done one round of our talks. So, I will give you both a read out of what we have discussed as well as some issues that I think we will be taking forward immediately after this Press Conference.
2. Before I come to that, it is important that I lay out the context for this visit. Normally, that would not be necessary, but these are unusual times. Let me begin by emphasizing that India and Russia have a longstanding partnership that has served both countries very well over many decades. This covers a range of practical cooperation in fields like trade, investment, energy, commodities etc. as well as sensitive domains like defence, space and nuclear. My objective in coming here today is to sit down with my Russian counterparts – Minister Lavrov and Deputy PM Manturov – and assess how we are doing. There are clearly challenges that we need to address as well as prospects that we are exploring. For this stock-taking exercise, I am accompanied by senior officials from the Indian Ministries of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Ports, Shipping & Waterways, Finance, Chemicals and Fertilizers as well as Commerce and Industry.
3. In the last few years, we, India and Russia, have grappled with how to expand our bilateral trade and introduce more factors of long-term stability and growth. Some of these discussions are now yielding results, accelerated by the stresses that the global economy is currently experiencing, including as a result of the Ukraine conflict. Minister Lavrov and I have noted the significant growth in our bilateral trade this year and focused on how to make it more sustainable. We are naturally concerned at the trade imbalance, and I have raised with the Russian side how to address impediments that stand in the way of greater Indian exports.
We reviewed the progress of our space and nuclear programs. It is also essential that our time-tested defence relationship continues to perform smoothly. Notably, our energy and fertilizer cooperation has been strengthening and our achievements of the last few years have become a foundation to do more. Foreign Minister Lavrov of course has spoken about some of these issues in his remarks.
4. We discussed ways to expand and diversify our cooperation, moving beyond traditional areas. Promotion of inter-regional cooperation has been a key priority for us, particularly with the Russian Far East. We also discussed enhancing connectivity, including through the International North-South Transport Corridor as well as the Chennai-Vladivostok Eastern Maritime Corridor. I updated Minister Lavrov and deputy PM Manturov on India’s flagship initiatives, including Atmanirbhar Bharat i.e. self reliant India and Make in India, that can serve as platforms for a more contemporary economic relationship between our two countries.
5. It is natural that as Foreign Ministers, we exchanged views on the international situation from our particular perspectives and vantage points. Obviously, the Ukraine conflict was a dominant feature, although we will continue to have discussions on it. Let me take this opportunity to lay out the Indian position on this matter. As Prime Minister Modi conveyed to President Putin in Samarkand in September, this is not an era of war. The global economy is simply too inter-dependent for a significant conflict anywhere, not to have major consequences elsewhere. We are seeing growing concerns on energy and food security from the conflict that are coming on top of severe stresses created by two years of Covid. The Global South, especially, is feeling this pain very acutely. India, therefore, strongly advocates a return to dialogue and diplomacy. We are clearly on the side of peace, respect for international law and support for the UN Charter. Insofar as specific initiatives pertaining to issues like food grains and fertilizer shipments are concerned, or any other problem for that matter, India will be as helpful as we can be. Indeed, I would say that for any initiative that de-risks the global economy and stabilizes the global order at this stage; India will be supportive.
6. From our side, I also shared with Minister Lavrov the Indian reading of recent trends in the Sub-continent. You are all aware that countries have experienced serious economic difficulties. There are other factors of instability as well. Terrorism, including its cross-border manifestation, remains a major concern. Where the Indo-Pacific is concerned, both our nations have stakes in its progress and prosperity. We, as partners, highly value the centrality of ASEAN to the larger regional architecture. From the view point of our respective interests, we exchanged views about how the goals of the international community are best served, including in securing the global commons.
7. Our talks also addressed a number of regional issues. On Afghanistan, we discussed how to continue our support for the people of Afghanistan, even as we urge Taliban to fulfill its international commitments. We are both members of various formats where the Afghan related issues come up for review and we will continue to be in close touch.
8. I hope to discuss in the coming session the prospects of the the Iranian JCPOA, because India believes that the way forward must be found in the interest of global peace, security and non-proliferation. I also expect a wider exchange of assessments on the current situation in the Middle East what we call West Asia, including matters pertaining to Syria and Palestine. India today has a wide range of interests and a growing footprint. Some of this is expressed in terms of our UN responsibilities like the chair of the Libya Committee, some in our traditionally close partnerships with Africa, and now increasingly, our deeper economic involvement with many regions. The world is moving towards greater multi-polarity through steady and continuous re-balancing. And that especially means a multipolar Asia. As prominent nations who have a positive history of working together, this will naturally influence the conversations between Russia and India.
9. Our two countries are members of the G20, the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, amongst others. How we work together in these formats is also on our agenda. You all know that India has assumed the Chair of the SCO and will take over the Presidency of the G20 in December. We strongly believe that the pressing concerns of the international community as a whole must be fully recognized and effectively addressed. The state of multilateralism, especially the working of the UN and its key organs, is today clearly wanting. Even as we focus on the immediate, the case for reformed multilateralism including a reformed UN Security Council is becoming difficult to deny. We welcome Russian support for India in that regard.
10. In conclusion, let me say that we have had a morning of very open and productive exchanges. As I noted, we are still somewhat halfway through our discussions. But Minister Lavrov, allow me to thank you for your hospitality, for your welcome. And I am confident that our talks will contribute to the further development of India-Russia cooperation.