Posted on July 18, 2022
The Mumbai Port Authority has reportedly requested intervention of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) over an alleged letter it received from the US Consulate in Mumbai.
The letter, written last month by Mumbai’s US Consulate General, asked the Mumbai Port Authority not to allow Russian vessels permission to dock at the port because of US sanctions against Russia.
According to reports in local media, a port official confirmed that indeed the Authority had received the letter. However, it was forwarded to Directorate General of Shipping (DGS), under the Ministry of Shipping for further direction.
But DGS also wrote to the MEA requesting further directions as the principal ministry concerned with diplomatic matters. The Ministry is yet to offer a response.
“We have forwarded the US Consulate General’s letter to the Ministry of External Affairs for their advice. Meanwhile, all vessels are free to trade if they adhere to safety protocols and do not violate international conventions,” Amitabh Kumar, Director General of Shipping told The Print newspaper.
The news of the letter has elicited a strong reaction from international relations commentators in India, and even U.S. analysts have criticized the move.
“Instead of speaking directly to New Delhi, US consulate in Mumbai writes a letter to Mumbai Port Authority to bar Russian ships. Unwise move there,” Derek Grossman, Senior Defense Analyst at Rand Corporation commented on Twitter.
The US government has been seeking India’s support to mitigate Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. According to trade reports, India’s oil imports from Russia surged a record of around 950,000 barrels per day (bpd) in June, accounting for nearly 20 percent of overall imports by the world’s third-largest oil consumer. Historically, India sourced only about three percent of its imports from Russian suppliers.
Last Friday, at the sidelines of G20 Foreign Ministers meeting in Indonesia, the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. Blinken called for collective efforts to mitigate the impact of the war in Ukraine.
Like China, India has taken a neutral position on the Russian invasion. In fact, trade relations between India and Russia have intensified since the war began five months ago.