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 his country’s dependence on Russian oil...

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

Mr Biden also underscored growing defense cooperation with India during a virtual meeting with Mr Modi – a line that US officials have increasingly stressed in hopes of convincing New Delhi get out of the fence on the Russian invasion.

During the meeting between the two leaders, Mr. Biden offered to help Mr. Modi acquire 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 the financial resources generated by the sale of oil and gas around the world.

But Mr Biden stopped short of pressuring India to stop buying Russian oil, which accounts for about 1% of its imports. And US officials said the president did not ask India to name Russia for the brutal military campaign against its neighbor, a step India has been unwilling to take since the start of the invasion.

“The president has made it clear that he does not believe it is in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of energy and other raw materials from Russia,” said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, to reporters after the leaders’ meeting, which lasted about an hour.

On Monday, Mr Modi again refused to name Russia by name even as he condemned the apparent human rights abuses in Buchawhich the United States and others say is evidence of war crimes.

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

India has long been dependent on Russia for military hardware, an important factor in the deep historical ties between the two countries. And so, despite global condemnations of Russian aggression in Ukraine, Mr Modi’s administration has tried to remain neutral – refraining from criticizing Russia, while calling for negotiations and engaging Ukraine with a humanitarian aid.

While US officials have understood the complexity of India’s balancing act, viewing New Delhi as an important ally in the face of a assertive china, they have sometimes expressed frustration that India’s position offers some cover for Mr. Putin. Some US officials have warned of consequences if India expands trade with Russia, especially increase in oil purchasesas the West attempts to tighten sanctions.

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

But while the United States has managed to rally more than 50 nations, including much of Europe, behind this strategy, India and other countries around the world have held back. India abstained when the United Nations voted to condemn the invasion in March, and again when the UN expelled Russia from the organization’s Human Rights Council.

That came 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 America’s cautious approach to relations with India over the past 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 saw them talking about allowing India to make choices rather than forcing India to make choices. And so they don’t talk about it publicly like picking sides.

This frustrates some inside and outside the administration, who believe that India, the world’s largest democracy, and other countries should be more assertive in upholding 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 anger the group known as the Quad – the United States, Australia, the Japan and India – whose other nations have strongly condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, said the question highlighted the differences between the four nations even as the group claimed to come together around a common set of values.

“The Quad is really about maintaining a rules-based order, and a sovereign country, Russia, invading and destroying another sovereign country, Ukraine, is completely contrary to a rules-based order,” he said. declared. “And so, that’s going to make future Quad meetings – and we’re going to see them later this year – a little awkward and a little cold.”

But Mr. Grossman and Ms. Madan praised Mr. Biden and his administration for trying to deal delicately with India. Ms Madan said there was little to be gained for the United States by trying to exert too much pressure on countries that have their own national realities.

“You want to try to attract as many people to your posts,” she said, “but also recognizing that there will be a group of countries that won’t necessarily be as lively as you are.”

“The best thing to do is try to keep pushing to align them with you,” she added, “but otherwise keep them unaligned.”

As part of that effort, Biden on Monday echoed sentiments that other US officials have expressed in recent weeks in an attempt to reassure India that its source of military hardware would not run out if it took a tougher stance against Russia.

“We share a strong and growing major defense partnership,” the president said in his opening remarks, before the two countries’ defense and foreign ministers sat down for an in-depth dialogue. “The United States and India will continue to consult closely on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war.”

India’s defense purchases from the United States have increased over the past decade to about $20 billion. But analysts said expanding ties to the point where India’s dependence on Russian military hardware diminishes will take time. This would require overcoming deep-rooted hesitation in the relationship between the United States and India that goes back 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 the aggressor.

“Our talks today are taking place at a time when the situation in Ukraine is very worrying,” Modi said. “During this whole process, I spoke to the presidents of Ukraine and Russia several times. I not only appealed for peace, but also suggested that there be 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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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden urges Modi not to increase India's dependence on Russian oil and gas
Biden urges Modi not to increase India's dependence on Russian oil and gas
Newsrust - US Top News
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