Liz Truss’s visit to India to push for tougher action on the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine will coincide with a trip to the country by her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
The pair, who are not expected to cross paths in New Delhi, last met in Moscow on 10 February — just 14 days before Russia waged war against Ukraine — and publicly clashed at a press conference.
The foreign secretary warned at the time an invasion would be “disastrous” for Russia and European security while Mr Lavrov described talks with Ms Truss as like “the mute with the deaf”.
Ms Truss’s meeting with the Indian foreign minister for external affairs, Subrahmanyan Jaishankar, also comes amid concern in the West over prime minister Narendra Modi’s reluctance to publicly condemn the actions of Russia.
The Foreign Office said last night that Ms Truss will say Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine underlines the importance of democracies to work closer together to “deter aggressors” and “reduce vulnerability to coercion”.
International trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said she understands why India, a country that has abstained on UN resolutions censuring Russia, has kept quiet over the war in Ukraine but democratic nations should “stand up” for their values.
“We understand why they’ve chosen to sit on the fence at the moment – they, you know, have connections in both directions,” she told Sky News on Thursday.
“But for us, it’s really important to see all countries who believe in democracy and the rule of law, and indeed defending your own territorial borders and wanting to have that sovereignty, respected by those around you, to stand up for that.”
Lavrov, however, was also set to arrive in India on Thursday to push for closer trade links to help reduce the impact of economic sanctions imposed by the West.
Earlier this month, India agreed to import three million barrels of heavily discounted Russian oil as Moscow was forced to drop prices due to the effect of international sanctions.
Although the amounts are relatively small, there are concerns that volumes could increase in the coming months, potentially weakening the impact of economic restrictions.
In a statement, Ms 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 cyber security.
“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.”
Ms Truss will also use her visit to confirm £70 million of UK investment funding to support the development of renewable energy in India, which remains one of the world’s biggest users of hydrocarbons.
She will also announce a new joint cybersecurity program aimed at protecting online infrastructure in both countries from attacks.