Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who has been within the United States this week, on Friday spoke of the Washington-New Delhi ties in context of India’s geography, stressing that ” a friend can’t be weak”. “You can choose your friend but not your neighbour,” the finance minister mentioned as she defined that “India does not have an option to relocate” and, accordingly, the country has to take a “calibrated stance”. Her comments came in the backdrop of questions linked to India’s purchase of weapons and oil from Russia, which has been facing global sanctions over the Ukraine war.
In a video tweeted by news agency ANI, the 62-year-old leader, while answering a question, says: “Every bettering of relationship with the US… there may be a recognition that there’s a good friend there however the good friend’s geographical location is to be understood. And a good friend cannot be weakened for any purpose. We have to grasp the geographical location. The northern borders are at rigidity… the western borders are at odds…and there is Afghanistan… It’s not like India has a option to relocate.”
Invoking former prime minister and BJP veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee, she added: “You can’t choose your neighbour… you can choose your friend. Your neigbhourhood is what you have. If the US wants a friend, it won’t want a weak friend. So, we are taking decisions because we need to know where we are, given the geographical locations.”
“There is an understanding that India’s relationship with the United States has actually moved forward. It’s gotten deeper. There is no one questioning that. But there is also an understanding, not just the legacy dependence for defence equipment on Russia…that India has legacy issues as much as relationships over several decades. And if anything, I can say with a bit of confidence there is a positive understanding. It is not a negative understanding,” she said.
The energy dependence on Russia – an issue that has been constantly raised amid the Ukraine crisis by the West – was also one of the topics that came up during the press briefing. “In our vitality basket which is basically from the Middle East, considerably from the US…the portion that comes from the Russian Federation is not a lot that it should upset us. The portion of crude coming from Russia is not greater than 3-4 per cent.”
The war in Ukraine, which began on February 24, has raised challenges for India too, she said. “Some points of the Ukraine conflict are challenging- Sunflower oil provide which largely comes from Ukraine is not taking place now…We’re in search of options. Due to sanctions, (provide of) important fertilisers from Russia goes to be troublesome.”
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had mentioned that India can provide foodgrains to the world, if the WTO permits. The remarks have been repeated by Sitharaman on Friday.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI)