The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday rejected Russia’s claim that India was being subjected to a “devious policy” of the West to get the country to engage in “anti-China games”, saying New Delhi has an independent foreign policy based on its own national interests.
Anurag Srivastava, the official spokesperson of the foreign ministry, said that India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region was not directed against any country. “India has always pursued an independent foreign policy based on its national interest,” he told a press briefing. “India’s relationship with each country is independent of its relations with third countries.”
The assertion came days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described India as an “object” of the West’s “persistent, aggressive, and devious” policy against China in the Indo-Pacific. Lavrov alleged that the United States – through military and technical cooperation – was trying to influence India to join the anti-China camp and was also undermining New Delhi’s relations with Moscow.
“Rejecting the objective trends towards the formation of a multipolar world, the US-led West has launched a ‘game’,” Lavrov said at the general meeting of the Russian International Affairs Council on Tuesday. “It has postponed Russia and China for later and is trying to draw all others into a unipolar world by any means possible.”
Lavrov said that while Russia and China were not going to be “subordinate” to the West, India was being coerced by the US to support its position.
“India is currently an object of the Western countries’ persistent, aggressive and devious policy as they are trying to engage it in anti-China games by promoting Indo-Pacific strategies, the so-called ‘Quad’ while at the same time the West is attempting to undermine our close partnership and privileged relations with India,” he said, referring to the informal grouping bringing together India, Australia and Japan with the United States.
Asked about the Russian official’s remarks, Srivastava on Thursday rejected all claims, saying India stood for a “free, open and inclusive region”, while guarding its own national interests.
“As unequivocally outlined by Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] during his speech at the Shangri-La dialogue in June 2018, India does not see the Indo-Pacific region as a strategy or as a club of limited members or as a grouping that seeks to dominate,” he said. “It is not directed against any country.”
The MEA spokesperson also referred to India’s long-standing relations with Russia, which he said is characterised by a special and privileged strategic partnership. “This year marks the 20th anniversary of our strategic partnership with Russia,” he added. “Our relations with Russia stand on their own merits including in the sphere of military technical cooperation.”
The back-and-forth between Russia and India comes at a time when diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Beijing are at a nadir. Indian and Chinese troops are trying to disengage in Ladakh after the worst border skirmish between the two countries in decades. Both India and China have accused each other of crossing into rival territory and of firing shots for the first time in 45 years.
India on Friday once again blamed China for the ongoing border standoff between the two countries, claiming that it tried to effect a “unilateral change” in the eastern Ladakh region.
Earlier this week, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that the ties between the neighbours are passing through their most difficult phase, claiming that Beijing has offered “five differing explanations” for violating agreements on maintaining peace on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
Both sides have held several rounds of talks by military, diplomatic and political officials, including negotiations between their foreign ministers and defence ministers in Moscow in September. But the standoff has persisted.