Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary, is due to land in India on Thursday to urge Narendra Modi’s government to reduce its strategic dependency on Russia. But her arrival in New Delhi coincides with that of her sparring partner Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, who also arrives in India for his first visit since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
India has been criticized by western powers for not taking a tough enough line against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the UK hopes for clear signals from Modi’s government about its opposition to the invasion and support for the UN charter. Joe Biden, the US president, described the Indian position recently as “shaky”.
Truss will sign a joint strategic cyber partnership with India and sees this as a sign of the two countries’ willingness to increase security cooperation.
India is heavily dependent on Russia for arms purchases, and Lavrov is reportedly keen to persuade India to increase its purchase of discounted Russian oil. The discussions with Lavrov could also feature formulating a rupee-ruble payment mechanism for bilateral trade between India and Russia, a means of evading US sanctions.
As part of what is being billed as a diplomatic push against Russia, Truss will meet with India’s external affairs minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
She is due to stress that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “underlines the importance of democracies working closer together to deter aggressors, reduce vulnerability to coercion and strengthen global security”.
India, highlighting its non-aligned status, abstained at the UN general assembly in a key vote condemning the Russian invasion.
The Foreign Office said Truss wants progress in talks to develop defence-related trade, including innovative security technology, strengthening defense ties with the world’s largest democracy.
Before her arrival, Truss said: “Deeper ties between Britain and India will increase security in the Indo-Pacific and globally, and create jobs and opportunities in both countries.
“This matters even more in the context of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and underlines the need for free democracies to work closer together in areas like defence, trade and cybersecurity.
“India is an economic and tech powerhouse, the world’s largest democracy and a great friend of Britain, and I want to build an even closer relationship between our two nations.”
The UK and India will also agree to closer maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. The UK will join India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and become a lead partner on maritime security issues, coordinating work with key partners in south-east Asia.
Strengthening ties with India has been a priority for Truss since taking up the role. The visit is her second de ella as foreign secretary and her third de ella as a secretary of state in 13 months: she also visited as trade secretary.
She will argue that the current volatility in oil and gas prices and energy security concerns, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, shows the need not to buy more Russia oil but instead the importance of India’s green transition and moves towards energy self-sufficiency that UK technology can hasten.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism