In a meeting keenly watched by the West, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks on Friday during which the latter lauded the “sustainable” friendship between the two countries and appreciated India for dealing with the Ukraine crisis in “its entirety and not just a one-sided way”. The meeting between the two sides took place amid a flurry of visits from top officials in the west, who were trying to pressure India into toeing the Western sanctions against Russia. Those who visited India in the past few days included US Deputy NSA Daleep Singh, who is said to be the architect of the sanctions against Russia and has been vocal in voicing the US’ disapproval of ties between India and Russia. UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was here on Thursday, and equally vocal in her condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but stated that the UK would not pressure India, an independent country, over its purchase of Russian oil, as the UK is itself trying to cut its purchases of Russian energy. The German NSA Jens Ploetner was here, besides others. Jaishankar in his opening remarks pressed for dialogue and diplomacy as the way forward, without referring to Ukraine. “Our meeting today takes place in a difficult international environment, apart from the pandemic. “India has always been in favour of resolving differences and disputes through dialogue and diplomacy: In our meeting today we will have an opportunity to discuss contemporary issues and concerns in some detail,” he said. Lavrov, who arrived last evening on a two-day visit to firm up an energy deal and payments in rupee-ruble terms to sidestep the western sanctions, in his remarks also referred to Moscow’s latest push for a new balance in geopolitical equations. He said that “friendship is the key word to describe the history of Russia-India relations”. “Our relations were very sustainable during many difficult times in the past, and I have not the slightest doubt that mutual respect and the search for balance of interests will prevail in our relations for the future as well.”. He said the bilateral special privileged partnership with new Delhi “is one of the key priorities of Russian foreign policy”. “It’s equality and mutual trust which underlies our acts on the international area, and in the context of the multipolar world which is being objectively shaped, which you alluded to yesterday while addressing a conference in New Delhi,” Lavrov said referring to the talk on Thursday evening between the EAM and visiting UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. “We are certainly interested in having the world order balanced which makes it sustainable,” the Russian Foreign Minister said. He said the two sides have discussed the dates of the next meeting of the intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation. “We continue to implement projects in the areas of energy, science and tech, outer space, pharma, industry and of course we cooperated and continue to cooperate in the efforts to fight the coronavirus infection.” “Indeed as you mention our western colleagues would like to reduce any meaningful international issue to the crisis in Ukraine,” he said, in remarks slamming the west. “You know our position and we do not fight anything, and we appreciate that India is taking the situation in the entirety of facts and not just one-sided way,” Lavrov said. An Indian readout of the talks said the two sides assessed the overall state of cooperation. “They considered the implications of recent developments on trade and economic relations. EAM underlined that as a developing economy, global volatility in different domains is of particular concern to India. It is important for both countries that their economic, technological and people to people contacts remain stable and predictable” – in a clear indication that India is keen to maintain the relations and trading links. “The two Ministers discussed developments pertaining to Ukraine. Minister Lavrov briefed the Indian side from Russia’s perspective, including the ongoing talks. EAM emphasised the importance of cessation of violence and ending hostilities. Differences and disputes should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy and by respect for international law, UN Charter, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. The Ministers also discussed the situation in Afghanistan. Minister Lavrov conveyed his assessment of the recent conference on Afghanistan in China. EAM noted that UN Security Council Resolution 2593 (adopted last year in August under India’s presidency) expressed the concerns of the international community and spoke of humanitarian support for the Afghan people. Iran and JCPoA issue also featured in the talks. EAM welcomed the Russian briefing on the matter. Later the Russian Foreign Minister called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In remarks to the media, Lavrov said that Russia is ready to discuss the supply of oil and high technology to India and the two sides are in talks on moving towards a rupee-ruble system of payment. Lavrov also said that Indian foreign policy is “characterised by independence and the concentration of real, national legitimate interests” like that in Russia. “As regards oil supplies and high technology, if India wants to buy anything from us we are ready to discuss and to reach mutually acceptable forms of cooperation “. “The rupee-ruble has been going on for a long time. We don’t want to depend on a system that would be closed anytime, and we don’t want to be part of a system whose masters can steal your money overnight”, referring to the western financial system that has blocked out Russia as part of sanctions over the Ukraine crisis. “India and Russia for years have pursued trade in national currencies and this will be intensified including in defence. India is a friend and my visit is in that context. Russia is ready to provide for any product that India needs and we will work out an arrangement,” he added. On western pressure on India against keeping up its relations with Russia, he said: “I have no doubt that any pressure will affect our partnership… the relationship between India, Russia and China, others have been trying to suppress, and this politics, and they are also trying to force others to follow their politics,” he said, in reference to Moscow’s new push towards a new geopolitical order minus the west.