INDIA has said it will “soon” begin the delivery of more medicines requested by Ukraine, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said as the situation in the war-torn country calls for urgent humanitarian relief.
He also asserted that Russia remains “an important partner” for India, amid calls from Western countries to scale down its trade with Moscow.
New Delhi has sought an independent investigation into the recent killings in the Ukrainian city of Bucha but stopped short of pinning the blame on Russia.
India has already provided 90 tons of relief material to Ukraine, Jaishankar told Parliament on Wednesday (6).
“Ukrainian deputy prime minister Yulia Svyrydenko called me a few days ago to request for the supply of more medicines… This is underway and delivery should start very soon.”
He said India will work with the international community and partner countries to mitigate the economic hardships that are resulting from the conflict.
“Obviously, our focus is to soften its impact on our own economy. But equally, there are partners who are going through very tough times. Coordinating on lowering energy prices is one collective initiative. In the case of a neighbour like Sri Lanka, we are even supplying fuel and food on credit,” he said.
Noting that food security is another major concern, Jaishankar said India has been approached for the supply of wheat and sugar by many countries and it is responding positively.
“The House will be glad to know that whether it is Basmati rice, non-Basmati rice, sugar, (or) wheat, our exports in the last quarter have gone up very, very substantially,” he said.
Basmati is a long, slender-grained aromatic variety of rice, grown mainly in the Indian subcontinent.
“We have delivered for the world in terms of vaccines. We did it earlier for medicines… We will also step forward where global demands for food grains and other materials are concerned, and we will do it in a manner that is helpful to the global economy, which will not take undue advantage of countries in distress,” Jaishankar said.
Underlining that there are issues like the supply of edible oil, Jaishankar said commercial diplomacy has to find additional sources to address the disruption.
“Whether it is the supply of lentils, edible oils or the requirement of raw materials for fertilisers, we are really looking today in different ways at global markets, from Mercosur to Kazakhstan, Tanzania, Australia and Canada, to see how we can lighten the burden for the common people in India,” he said.
Jaishankar said India is examining a rupee-rouble trade mechanism.
“Our effort today is to stabilise economic transactions between India and Russia because it is very important for us. Russia is a very important partner in a variety of areas,” he said.
“So, at the moment, there is an inter-ministerial group which is led by the finance ministry seeing how the payments issue can be best addressed,” he said.