Boris Johnson will not ‘publicly lecture’ India on Ukraine as he chases trade deal

The Prime Minister has announced the UK will stop importing Russian oil by the end of the year and will phase out Russian gas imports.

Mr Johnson has even recently visited the Middle East to convince Gulf states to increase supply in an attempt to ramp up the financial pressure on Mr Putin, not to mention overseeing a string of sanctions against oligarchs and companies linked to the Kremlin.

The war has helped solidify Mr Johnson’s standing with Tory MPs after a revolt earlier in the year over allegations of lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

When MPs vote on launching an investigation into whether Mr Johnson misled Parliament on Thursday, he will be in India – underscoring his message of getting on with the job.

Mr Modi has not matched Mr Johnson on Ukraine. There has been no promise to scale back Russian oil and gas imports or public condemnation of Mr Putin over the invasion, despite public pressure from Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary.

India still enjoys warm relations with Russia, dating back to the Cold War and its policy of non-alignment. Today, around two-thirds of Indian military equipment is estimated to have been purchased from Moscow.

‘Global image’

Delhi’s greatest fear is growing Chinese aggression to the country’s north. Fundamentally, it also hopes by keeping Russia onside it could use Moscow to leverage Beijing.

Chinese soldiers seized at least 60 sq km (23 sq km) of Indian territory in May 2020 and there have been a series of incursions since along the two countries’ shared 3,488 km (2,167m) border.

Yet Mr Modi is aware that his line on Russia has alienated key allies, including the United States and the European Union.

For India’s premier, the visit of Mr Johnson, the first European leader to visit India since Russia’s invasion, adds legitimacy to his stance.

Sushant Singh, senior fellow at India’s Center for Policy Research, a Delhi-based think tank, said: “India is looking to grow acceptance in Europe over its position on the Ukraine war. 

“A visit from Mr Johnson allows Mr Modi to project that he isn’t isolated and key world leaders are working with him.

“It is a show of support for his domestic and global audience, as well as his global image.”

Whether the mutual goodwill can cover their stark differences on Ukraine remains to be seen.

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