Hong Kong (CNN) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to meet with his colleagues in China and India this week. The death toll from the unprovoked conflict between the two countries, which is under pressure to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, is rising.
On his second foreign trip since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, Lavrov met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for the first time on Wednesday, ahead of a scheduled flight to India on Thursday.
In the paper, Lavro’s meeting with Wang was about the unrest in Afghanistan. But one expert said it was “unthinkable” that they did not discuss the situation in Ukraine, including the tough sanctions imposed by the international community on Russia and its ally Belarus.
Ahead of the visit, Steve Zhang, director of SOAS China at the University of London, said before the visit that “whatever is said about the center of the visit, it is unthinkable for the parties to avoid Ukraine in their discussions.”
Lavrov’s visit will provide him with an opportunity to assess the state of Russia’s relations with China and India, as they are subject to international scrutiny as they did not respond forcefully to Moscow.
Both China and India They both refused to condemn Russia’s brutal invasion and abstained from voting on UN resolutions calling on Moscow to immediately suspend its attacks on Ukraine.
At the end of Lavrov’s first day in China on Wednesday, Beijing clarified its position.
“China-Russia cooperation has no ceiling, we have no ceiling to fight for peace, we have no ceiling to defend security, we have no ceiling to oppose domination,” a Defense Ministry spokesman said. According to Xinhua News Agency, China Foreign Relations Wang Wenpin.
Reaffirming China’s friendship
Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, China has tried to accept its callTo a neutral position, Do not impose sanctions on Moscow, or call it an invasion. On the contrary, China is increasingly blaming the United States And NATO Conflict, and the state media promote Russian misinformation.
On Wednesday, Wang Wenpin reiterated China’s position that “dialogue and negotiations are the only way to resolve the Ukraine crisis,” and warned against using the phrase “adding fuel to the fire”, a phrase often used by Chinese officials critical of Western sanctions.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have publicly expanded their partnership in recent years, declaring in February that “no limits” to their relationship. They have grown into business partners, conducting joint military exercises and both denouncing what they see as Western interference in internal affairs, often voting collectively at the UN.
“There is a common goal between the two sides, especially about the international order they want to see,” said Manoj Kevlarmani, a fellow student at China’s Takshashila Institution in India.
But the invasion of Ukraine has put this relationship to the test because if it provides assistance to Russia, China faces the threat of secondary sanctions, putting Lavrov’s visit in grave danger, allowing both sides to clarify the “gray areas” of their relationship, Chang said.
“The war is at a difficult stage for Russia, and I see Moscow wanting to determine the level of Chinese aid or support,” Zhang said. “On the China side, I can see what Beijing has in mind for Moscow’s final game and how (Russia’s) plans could affect China.”
Xi said he would like to continue his and the country’s relationship with Putin, but that the Chinese president “will not pay a significant price for doing so.” Russia is also “ultimately realistic that Beijing ” unlimited friendship ‘actually has clear limits,” Zhang said.
On Wednesday, Wang Yi and Lavrov left their meetings in solidarity, appearing to reaffirm their country’s friendship.
“Sino-Russian relations bear the new test of a changing international landscape,” Wang said after the meeting. “China is ready to work with Russia to bring Sino-Russian relations to a higher level in the new era.”
He spoke in support of the US Alliance, but said that maintaining some independence was important for Russia and Ukraine.
Russian bombs destroyed civilian structures, including homes, schools, hospitals and temporary shelters, during the war, besieging cities, especially Mariupol, without heat, electricity or water.
India’s defense trade
Lavrov will arrive in India late Thursday for a two-day visit, the Indian Foreign Ministry said.
His visit comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activities involving India. Earlier this month, the leaders of Japan and Australia held summits with their Indian counterparts. This week, ambassadors from Germany and the European Union will visit Delhi. Lavrov’s visit coincides with that of Britain’s Secretary of State Lis Truss and US Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs Talib Singh.
“I think this is significant because of what is happening in Europe and Ukraine right now,” Kevlarmani said. “The debate over India’s response is clear.”
India’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion is one of the main reasons why India relies on Russian weapons for its own national security, despite pressure from its Western allies, Kevlarmani added.
For years, India, the world’s largest democracy, sought to counter China’s growing influence in the region, especially as tensions on its disputed border escalated, intensifying after 2020 when both sides participated in fierce conflict.
Russia has also played a key role in accelerating India’s regional security. In 2018, India signed a $ 5 billion arms deal with Russia for an air defense missile system. It is estimated that more than 50% of India’s military supplies come from Russia.
That relationship is “essential to India’s interests, especially to India’s security interests,” Kevlarmani said.
He added that many foreign diplomats are now visiting and talking to Indian officials, which may try to change India’s position, but many “understand” India’s security concerns.
For example, Truss, the UK foreign secretary, described his visit as a “diplomatic drive” to counter Russia’s occupation of Ukraine.
“I want to build a closer relationship between our two countries,” Truss said in a statement issued by the British Foreign Office on Wednesday. “This is important in the context of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and underscores the need for independent democracies to work more closely together in areas such as security, trade and cyber security.”
Facing this, Lavrov said, “Probably India would like to get the mood of India which is political.”
He said while India was unlikely to show any public support for Russia’s invasion, talks were ongoing within the country on its economic and strategic future.
“Is there an attempt to find ways to move Indian politics? Of course, it is clear,” he said. “I think you will find that India is cautious when it tries to see where India can defend its interests.”
CNN’s Manveena Suri, Simon McCarthy, Brad London, Rhea Mogul and Julia Hollingsworth contributed to the report.
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