Biden urges Modi not to increase India’s dependence on Russian oil and gas

WASHINGTON – President Biden on Monday urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to increase dependence on Russian oil and gas, officials said, part of a global effort by the United States to maintain economic pressures. Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Biden also highlighted growing defense cooperation with India during his virtual meeting with Mr. Modi – a line that US officials have increasingly emphasized in the hope of persuading New Delhi. come out of the fence about the Russian invasion.

During the meeting between the two leaders, Mr. Biden offered to help Mr. Modi procure oil and other energy from other sources. The United States and its allies have been trying for months to deprive Russian President V. Putin of financial resources from selling oil and gas around the world.

However, Mr. Biden stopped short of pressuring India to stop buying Russian oil, which accounts for about 1% of its oil imports. And US officials said the president did not ask India to condemn Russia specifically for its brutal military campaign against its neighbour, a step India has been reluctant to take since the beginning of its invasion.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters after the leaders’ meeting, which lasted about an hour, “The president made it clear that he doesn’t believe that India wants to accelerate or increase energy imports.” Russian quality and other goods are in the interest of India.

On Monday, Mr. Modi again refused to name Russia even as he condemned clear human rights violations in Buchawhich the United States and others have said is evidence of war crimes.

“The news of the killings of innocent civilians in the city of Bucha is very disturbing,” Modi said in public remarks at the start of his meeting with Biden. He did not attribute the killings to Russia, but said that “we immediately condemn the killings and have called for an independent investigation.”

India has long been dependent on Russia for military hardware, an important factor in the deep historical relationship between the two countries. And so, despite global condemnation of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Mr. Modi’s administration has managed to stay neutral – not criticizing Russia, while calling for talks and soliciting public opinion. Ukraine’s humanitarian assistance.

While American officials understand the complexities of India’s balancing act, New Delhi sees New Delhi as an important ally in the face of a China is assertive, they have sometimes expressed frustration that India’s stance is giving Mr. Putin some cover-up. Some US officials have warned of consequences if India expands its trade with Russia, especially to any other country increase oil purchasesas the West tries to tighten sanctions.

India is emblematic of the challenge facing Mr. Biden and other Western allies as they seek to expand a coalition of nations willing to punish Mr. Putin for his actions. The president has said that global unity behind economic sanctions is key to forcing the Russian leader to abandon what Mr. Biden called his “war of choice” in Ukraine.

But while the United States has succeeded in rallying more than 50 countries, including much of Europe, behind that strategy, India and the rest of the world have held back. India abstained when the United Nations voted to condemn the invasion in March, and again when the United Nations removed Russia from its Human Rights Council.

That should come as no surprise to Biden administration officials, according to longtime observers of India’s relations with other countries. Tanvi Madan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Monday’s meeting underscored the cautious US approach to relations with India over the past several decades.

“They understand that forcing India to make a choice will not work and may even backfire,” she said. “And so I think I’ve seen them talk about giving India a choice instead of forcing India to choose. And so they don’t talk about it as openly as camp picking. ”

That frustrated some inside and outside the administration, who believe that India, the world’s largest democracy, and other countries should be more assertive in defending the principles of national borders. .

And India’s determination to remain neutral in a conflict that is rocking Europe and much of the rest of the world is likely to become the agitator in the so-called Quad – the United States, Australia, Japan and India – to which other countries have been adamant. condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at RAND Corporation, said the issue highlights the differences between the four countries even as the group claims to be drawn together because of a common set of values.

“The Quad is really about maintaining a rules-based order, and a sovereign state, in Russia, to invade and destroy another sovereign state, in Ukraine, is absolutely,” he said. as opposed to a rule-based order. “And so that’s going to make future Quad meetings – and we’ll see them again later this year – a bit awkward and a bit cold.”

However, both Mr. Grossman and Ms. Madan praised Mr. Biden and his administration for trying to deal with India delicately. Ms. Madan said that the US will not get much benefit by trying to put too much pressure on countries that have the power in their own country.

“You want to try to get as many people into your position,” she says, “but also realize that there will be a group of countries that won’t necessarily be on the same page as you.”

“The next best thing is to try to keep working hard to engage them with you,” she adds, “but if not, keep them off the hook.”

As part of that effort, Mr. Biden on Monday reiterated views other US officials have expressed in recent weeks to reassure India that its military assets will not run out. if it takes a tougher stance against Russia.

“We share a strong and growing defense partnership,” the president said in his opening remarks before the foreign and defense ministers of both countries sat down for expanded dialogue. “The United States and India will continue our close consultations on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this war by Russia.”

India’s defense purchases from the United States have grown over the past decade to around $20 billion. However, analysts say that expanding the relationship to the extent of India’s dependence on Russian military hardware will take time. That would require overcome deep-rooted hesitation relationship between the United States and India dates back many decades.

In his remarks, Mr. Modi continued India’s delicate line on Ukraine – expressing concern over the suffering caused by the war but refraining from calling Russia an aggressor.

“Our talks today come at a time when the situation in Ukraine is very worrying. “During this whole process, I spoke many times with the presidents of both Ukraine and Russia. Not only do I call for peace, but I also ask for direct talks between President Putin and the president of Ukraine.”

Michael D. Shear reported from Washington, and Mujib Mashal from Kathmandu, Nepal.

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