New Delhi, March 23
Amidst a full-court press by the Western allies on India to change its position regarding the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will arrive here on Thursday for a two-day visit.
Sources were tightlipped on whether the visit would lead to the resolution of the border standoff, but said it paves the way for External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to visit Beijing for more substantial talks.
In case things work out, Prime Minister Narendra Modi could visit China to attend the Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) summit which is likely to be held back-to-back with a Russia-India-China summit.
Wang will arrive directly from Pakistan after being the Chief Guest at the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) Ministerial summit which, by the end of the day may issue a critical statement on Kashmir.
In a sign of intense geopolitical flux and the need for all countries to consult each other consistently, South Bock seems to have dropped its insistence that a foreign dignitary should not club his India visit with that of Pakistan.
The US and its allies have been intensely courting India with offers of joint work in critical technologies and even offering to source oil and Russian military equipment.
Pentagon official Donald Lu and senior US diplomat Victorial Nuland, who played the role in ousting a pro-Russian Ukrainian President in 2014, have over the past two days met Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla with offers to replace practically everything that India sources from Russia.
The US efforts have been supplemented by a visit from Japanese PM, a phone call from the UK PM and a virtual summit with PM Modi by the Australian PM, all close US military and intelligence allies.
At the US State Department briefing, spokesperson Ned Price dodged a question on US sanctions on India for its purchase of Russian arms. But, India’s dependence on Russia for arms was at a time when the US was not in the market and it was time to review it, he suggested.
“It was a very different time, different considerations, but those times have changed. They’ve changed in terms of our willingness and ability to be a strong defence and security partner of India. This is a bilateral relationship that has deepened in a number of ways over the past 25 years or so,” said Price.
Calling 20 years of US-India defence –supplier relationship a “legacy”, Price said, “In large part of the George W. Bush administration, where we have seen this bilateral relationship between the United States and India evolve and change for the better and deepen in a number of ways, including in our defence and security relationship.”
“So, the fact is that we are a partner of India now. We are a partner of India when it comes to shared interests, when it comes to the values we share in a free and open Indo-Pacific. And we’ve invested in that relationship in terms of our defence and security. So historical relationships notwithstanding, we are a partner of choice for India now, as are many of our partners and allies around the world,” he underlined.
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