Economy

India wants to be strong friends with the West: Nirmala Sitharaman

BL New Delhi Bureau | Updated on: Apr 23, 2022
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman attends G20 Emerging Market Economies meeting on the sidelines of on the sidelines of the upcoming G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting, in Washington DC

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman attends G20 Emerging Market Economies meeting on the sidelines of on the sidelines of the upcoming G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting, in Washington DC

Finance Minister speaks on the need for multilateralism amid global uncertainties

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that India wants to be strong friends with the “liberal world” but needs Russia’s assistance to defend its borders. Meanwhile, she urged the World Bank to pay special attention to Sri Lanka which is facing a severe monetary problem.

Sitharaman said in an interview with wire service Bloomberg, “You have a neighbor who joins hands with another neighbor, both of whom are against you. In the context of the Russia-Ukraine war, if there are alliances created, India has to be strong enough to protect itself.”

This remark comes at a time when India is facing criticism over its refusal to outright condemn Vladimir Putin’s “special military operations” in Ukraine.

India is the world’s top buyer of Russian weapons, used as a deterrent against Pakistan and China which have long cooperated on defense. While the US had traditionally sought to balance ties between India and Pakistan — which for years was an important partner of the US in Afghanistan — more recently, it has courted New Delhi to counter China.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has already conveyed this “unique” geopolitical position to the US, said Sitharaman. A senior US diplomat on Thursday again warned China of sanctions if it offers “material support” for Putin’s war, while also pledging to help India end its dependence on Russian weapons. 

“India wants to be friends with the European Union and the Western, free, liberal world, but not as a weak friend that needs desperate help here-and-there,” she said. 

Meeting with World Bank

Meanwhile, on Friday, she met World Bank Group (WBG) President David Malpass in Washington DC to discuss various issues, including India’s continued recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic; the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on the world economy and India in particular; economy and role of the WBG; single borrower limit and exploring the possibility of guarantees from other nations, India’s G20 Presidency and the World Bank’s leadership in India after the Country Director’s departure.

India also urged the World Bank to pay special attention to Sri Lanka, which is facing a severe monetary problem.

According to a statement issued by the Finance Ministry, Sitharaman stated that India’s pandemic response has focused on the twin goals of saving lives and livelihoods. India has been successfully running the world’s second-largest vaccination programme, administering more than 1.85 billion doses of vaccine, she said.

Rising geopolitical tensions

The Finance Minister mentioned that India remains concerned about the risks to global recovery due to the rising uncertainty amidst enhanced geopolitical tensions. She suggested that multilateralism has become more critical as the world is undergoing a phase of exceptional uncertainty.

“On account of the pandemic and the recent geopolitical developments, there is a need for the World Bank to come to the rescue of countries facing debt stress. In particular, the World Bank needs to pay special attention to Sri Lanka, which is facing an unprecedented economic situation,” the statement said.

Sitharaman highlighted India’s roadmap for infrastructure development and looks forward to World Bank’s continued support for financing investments for the National Infrastructure pipeline and Gati Shakti programme.

India’s Covid response

Earlier, she participated in the 105 th Meeting of the Development Committee Plenary in Washington DC today. The agenda of the meeting included Digitalisation & Development, Making Debt Work for Development & Macroeconomic Stability and World Bank Group’s Response to Global Impacts of the War in Ukraine: A Proposed Roadmap.

During this session, the Finance Minister stated that India’s economic growth in the current year is robust and the highest among all large economies, and reflects India’s resilience and strong recovery. She stated that India faced the Covid-19 pandemic crisis with great resilience and made remarkable progress in vaccination.

She underlined that India voluntarily offered Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network (CoWIN) platform to all countries and is willing to assist other public-goods platforms, recognising the importance of replication of proven and scalable digital platforms.

Here too, she drew attention of the distinguished gathering in the meeting to the unprecedented situation in Sri Lanka and hoped for decisive relief so that the island nation comes out of the crisis.

Published on April 23, 2022
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