File photo: India's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses a news conference in New Delhi Photograph:( AFP )
India and Russia are long-time allies and New Delhi procures most of its military hardware from Moscow
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday (April 23) told Bloomberg that India needs Russian help to defend its borders.
India and Russia are long-time allies and New Delhi procures most of its military hardware from Moscow.
"You have a neighbour who joins hands with another neighbour, both of whom are against me. In the context of the Russia-Ukraine war, God forbid, if there are alliances created, India has to be strong enough to protect itself,'' Sitharaman said alluding to China and Pakistan.
"India wants to be friends with the European Union and the Western, free, liberal world," she added, "but not as a weak friend that needs desperate help here and there."
Sitharaman is in Washington to attend the annual spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently visited India and signed a "new and expanded" defence and security partnership.
Political experts had said it was a move by the West to reduce India's reliance on its biggest military supplier Russia.
Although India has abstained from voting against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it has condemned the killing in Bucha and provided humanitarian aid to Kyiv.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told US President Joe Biden that he had asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to negotiate a peace deal with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Washington has asked New Delhi to limit bilateral relations with Moscow by reducing its oil trade with Russia.
In response, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said, "India's approach should be guided by our national beliefs and values, by our national interest, and by our national strategy."
Adding that European countries such as France and Germany were still buying oil from Russia, Jaishankar said, "So what should India do in these circumstances? At the time when energy costs have spiked, clearly, we need to ensure that the common person in India is not subject to an additional and unavoidable burden. Similarly, fertiliser prices have a direct implication for the livelihoods of the majority of our population."
According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, ''We will be ready to supply any goods which India wants to buy."
"I have no doubt that a way would be (found) to bypass the artificial impediments which illegal unilateral sanctions by the West create. This relates also to the area of military-technical cooperation," he added.
(With inputs from agencies)