WASHINGTON – President Biden on Monday urged India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to increase his country’s reliance on Russian oil and gas, officials said, amid concerns about the United States’ invasion of Ukraine to maintain economic pressure on Russia. part of the effort.
Mr Biden also emphasized growing defense cooperation with India in a virtual meeting with Mr Modi – a row US officials have increasingly highlighted in hopes of convincing New Delhi to come off the fence over Russia’s aggression.
At the meeting between the two leaders, Mr. Biden offered to help Mr. Modi get oil and other energy from other sources. The United States and its allies have been working for months to deprive Russian President Vladimir V. Putin of financial resources resulting from worldwide oil and gas sales.
But Mr Biden did little to stop pressuring India to stop buying Russian oil, which accounts for about 1 per cent of its imports. And US officials said the president did not ask India to condemn Russia for its brutal military operation against its neighbour, a move India has been unwilling to take since the start of the invasion.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters after the leaders’ meeting that lasted about an hour, “The President made clear that he does not consider it in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy and other goods.” “
On Monday, Mr Modi again refused to name Russia, even as he denounced the apparent human rights abuses in Buka, which the United States and others have called evidence of war crimes. .
“The news about the killing of innocent civilians in the city of Bucha was very worrying,” Mr. Modi said in public remarks at the beginning of his meeting with Mr. Biden. He did not attribute the killings to Russia, but said that “we immediately condemned the killings and called for an independent investigation.”
India has long been dependent on Russia for military hardware, a key factor in the deep historical ties between the two countries. And so despite global condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Mr Modi’s administration has tried to remain neutral – avoiding criticizing Russia, calling for talks and engaging Ukraine with humanitarian aid.
While US officials have been understanding the complexity of India’s balancing act, seeing New Delhi as an important ally in the face of an outspoken China, they have at times expressed disappointment that India’s stand is giving Mr Putin some cover. . Some US officials have warned of consequences if India expands trade with Russia, especially any increase in oil purchases, as the West tries to tighten sanctions.
India embodies 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 global unity behind economic sanctions is the key to forcing the Russian leader to abandon what Mr Biden calls his “war of choice” in Ukraine.
But while the United States has had success rallying more than 50 countries, including Europe, behind that strategy, India and other countries around the world have retreated. When the United Nations voted to condemn the invasion in March, and again when the United Nations ousted Russia from the organization’s Human Rights Council, India did not participate.
This came as no surprise to officials in the Biden administration, 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 careful US approach to relations with India over the past several decades.
“They understand that forcing India to make a choice is unlikely to be effective and may even be counterproductive,” she said. “And so, I think I’ve seen them talk about enabling India to make choices, rather than forcing India to make choices. And so they go public about it as choosing the camps.” don’t talk.”
This frustrates some inside and outside the administration, who believe that India, the world’s largest democracy, and other countries should be more vocal in defending the principles of national boundaries.
And India’s determination to remain neutral in the ongoing conflict in much of Europe and the rest of the world is likely to be a bottleneck in the grouping known as the Quad – the United States, Australia, Japan and India – whose other nations strongly condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, said the issue highlighted differences between the four countries, even as the group claims to have come together around a set of common values.
Russo-Ukraine War: Major Events
Russia prepares for a renewed offensive. Ukraine prepares for a Russian offensive on its eastern front, with Ukrainian officials warning civilians still living in the region that time to escape is running out. But the road to security is fraught with danger, with reports of Ukrainian civilians being killed as they try to escape.
“The Quad is really about maintaining a rules-based order, and invading and destroying a sovereign country in Russia, another sovereign country in Ukraine, is the opposite of a rules-based order,” he said. “And so, it’s going to make future Quad meetings — and we’re going to see them later this year — a little weird and a little cold.”
But both Mr Grossman and Ms Madan praised Mr Biden and his administration for trying to deal delicately with India. Ms Madan said there is little benefit for the United States to try to put too much pressure on countries that have their own domestic realities.
“You want to try to attract as many people as possible to your positions,” she said, “but also assuming that there will be a bunch of countries that aren’t necessarily like-minded to you.”
“The next best thing is to try to continue your efforts to align them with you,” she said, “but if not, keep them non-aligned.”
As part of that effort, Mr Biden on Monday echoed sentiments that other US officials have expressed in recent weeks in efforts to reassure India that military hardware if it takes a tough stand against Russia. The source will not dry up.
“We share a strong and growing key defense partnership,” the president said in his opening remarks, before the defense and foreign ministers of the two countries sat down for extended talks. “The United States and India will continue our close consultations on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war.”
India’s defense purchases from the United States have grown to nearly $20 billion over the past decade. But analysts say expanding the ties to the extent that India’s reliance on Russian military hardware is reduced will take time. This will require overcoming the deep-rooted hesitation in relations between the United States and India decades ago.
In his remarks, Mr Modi continued India’s delicate line on Ukraine – expressing concern about the suffering caused by the war but refrained from calling Russia an aggressor.
“Our talks today are taking place at a time when the situation in Ukraine is very worrying,” Mr. Modi said. “Throughout this process, I spoke to the Presidents of both Ukraine and Russia several times. I not only appealed for peace, but also suggested that there should be direct talks between President Putin and the President of Ukraine.
Michael D. Shearer reported from Washington, and Mujeeb Mashalo From Kathmandu, Nepal.