US, India draw closer despite differences on Ukraine

Washington, Jun 22 (EFE).- The leaders of the United States and India made it clear here Thursday that they don’t plan to let their differences over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine get in the way of forging closer bilateral ties.

“And today, we also talked about our shared efforts to mitigate the humanitarian tragedies unleashed by Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine and to defend the core principles of the U.N. Charter: sovereignty and territorial integrity,” President Joe Biden said at the White House during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While the US and its allies have imposed a raft of sanctions on Russia and are arming Ukraine, New Delhi has been unwilling to damage ties with Moscow that go back to the earliest days of independent India.

“The Covid pandemic and the Ukraine conflict have afflicted the countries of the Global South in particular. We believe that in order to resolve these problems, it is absolutely imperative for all countries to unite,” Modi said Thursday, speaking through an interpreter.

“From the very beginning of the events in Ukraine, India has laid emphasis on resolution of dispute through dialogue and diplomacy. We are completely ready to contribute in any way we can to restore peace,” he said.

Modi met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last month on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

Biden described the current US-India relationship as a “partnership that is among the most consequential in the world, that is stronger, closer, and more dynamic than any time in history.”

The US is the world’s largest economy, while India, which leads the globe in population, ranks fifth and has the highest growth rate among G20 nations.

Washington sees India as vital to its strategy of containing China, which helps explain why Biden invited Modi to make a rare state visit.

“We discussed our work through the Quad and how India and the United States, together with Australia and Japan, can ensure the vital Indo-Pacific region remains free, open, prosperous, and secure,” Biden said Thursday.

The US president went on to mention joint commitments to “secure our semiconductor supply chains” and “growing our major defense partnership with the more joint exercises, more cooperation between our defense industries, and more consultation and coordination across all domains.”

A statement released by the White House provided some details of the new initiatives, included US-based Micron Technology, Inc.’s plan to invest up to $825 million to build a new semiconductor assembly and test facility in India with support from the Indian government.

In the defense realm, General Electric (GE) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) signed a memorandum of understanding for the manufacture of GE F-414 jet engines in India for use on HAL’s Light Combat Aircraft Mk 2.

India also signaled its intention to spend $3 billion to acquire General Atomics MQ-9B HALE UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that will be assembled in India.

Biden welcomed India’s decision to sign the Artemis Accords, aimed at facilitating international cooperation for the next Moon landing and prepare a future voyage to Mars, while NASA is set to work with the Indian space agency to send a mission to the International Space Station in 2024.

This is the second US visit by the controversial leader, whose US visa was revoked in 2005 amid allegations that he ignored or even promoted violence against Muslims by Hindu extremists in 2002 while governor of Gujarat state.

Unease about the state of civil liberties and minority rights in India prompted a number of US lawmakers to boycott Modi’s address to a joint session of Congress.

Members who decided to skip the event included the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, along with fellow progressives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman.

“I am delighted to see you come together today to celebrate the bond between world’s two great democracies: India and the United States,” Modi told legislators.

Americans of Indian origin were well represented in the chamber, with Vice President Kamala Harris sitting on the dais behind Modi and Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, and Raja Krishnamoorthi in the audience.

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