President Biden highlighted growing defense cooperation with India during a virtual meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday — a line US officials have increasingly touted in hopes of convincing New Delhi to break away from Russia’s war on Ukraine.
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 worldwide condemnations of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Mr Modi’s government has tried to remain neutral – apart from criticizing Russia, while calling for negotiations and engaging Ukraine with humanitarian aid.
While US officials understood the complexities of India’s balancing act and saw New Delhi as an important ally in the face of an assertive China, they have at times expressed frustration that India’s stance offers President Putin some cover. Some US officials have warned of the consequences if India expands trade with Russia, especially any increase in oil purchases, as the West tries to tighten sanctions.
India only imports about one percent of its oil needs from Russia. Many Indian officials have spoken of a double standard, with Europe continuing to import oil from Russia while imports from India come under strict scrutiny.
President Biden echoed sentiments expressed by other US officials in recent weeks in efforts to reassure India that its source of military hardware will not dry up if it takes a firmer stance against Russia.
“We share a strong and growing important defense partnership,” President Biden said in his opening address, before the defense and foreign ministers of both countries met for an extensive dialogue. “The United States and India will continue our close consultations on how to cope with the destabilizing effects of this Russian war.”
India’s defense purchases from the United States have increased to about $20 billion in the past decade. But analysts have said expanding ties to the point where India’s reliance on Russian military hardware would diminish will be slow, as it needs to address deep-seated hesitancy in the United States-India relationship, which has been going on for decades. conquered.
In his remarks, Prime Minister Modi continued India’s delicate line on Ukraine, expressing concern about the suffering caused by the war, but refraining from proclaiming Russia as the aggressor.
“Our talks today are taking place at a time when the situation in Ukraine is very worrying,” said Mr Modi. “During this whole process, I spoke several times with the presidents of both Ukraine and Russia. I have not only advocated for peace, but also proposed direct talks between President Putin and the President of Ukraine.”