Conflicts & War

US pressures neutral India not to increase Russian oil purchases

By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla

Washington, Apr 11 (EFE).- During a call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, United States President Joe Biden failed to shift India from its neutral position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite the fact that the US believes that New Delhi should not increase oil imports from Moscow.

This was the first conversation between Biden and Modi since the dialogue they had with their counterparts from Australia and Japan on Mar. 3, in the first days of the invasion by Russia, a country with which India maintains a close relationship.

A senior official from the US administration told reporters that the conversation between Biden and Modi on Monday lasted about an hour and was “very candid.”

The US has not “asked India to do anything in particular” on energy issues around buying from Russia, since it considers that the South Asian country “is not a major consumer of Russian oil,” which only represents between 1-2 percent of its imports, the source said.

“That said, we don’t think India should accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy. And the US is ready to support India, remain in a conversation with India about its diversification of imports,” the official stressed.

However, India’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said Monday in Washington that if the US is “looking at energy purchases from Russia, I would suggest that your attention should be focused on Europe.”

“Looking at the figures, probably our total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon,” he added.

Early this month New Delhi received a visit from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and said afterwards that it will continue to buy oil from Moscow despite sanctions and international pressure to isolate it.

Beyond energy issues, Modi claimed during the call with Biden to have sent medicines to Ukraine, and recalled that he has spoken several times with the presidents of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to promote peace talks.

Biden limited himself in his initial considerations to thanking India for its humanitarian support for the people of Ukraine.

He added that the US and India are “going to continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war.”

The call took place within the framework of the 4th India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, which brought together the foreign affairs envoys of both countries, Antony Blinken and Jaishankar, as well as their defense ministers, Lloyd Austin and Rajnath Singh, in Washington.

At a joint press conference, Blinken was particularly critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but avoided commenting on India’s neutrality.

“The United States will continue to increase our support to the government and people of Ukraine and call on other nations to do the same, just as we call on all nations to condemn Moscow’s increasingly brutal actions,” he said.

Jaishankar repeated that his government is “against the conflict” and “for dialogue and diplomacy” and the “urgent cessation of violence.”

Since the beginning of the invasion on Feb. 24, India has called for a ceasefire and dialogue, while abstaining from the United Nations vote to condemn Russia’s invasion and to suspend it from the Human Rights Council.

Analysts attribute the Modi government’s position to India’s military dependency on Russia, from whom it imports between 60-70 percent of its weapons.

In addition, India tries to tend to its relationship with Russia to prevent it from getting closer to China, since in recent years the border tension between New Delhi and Beijing has increased.

The White House shares this concern and for this reason the Biden administration offered to strengthen the Quad alliance, made up of its Indo-Pacific partners India, Australia and Japan as a counterweight to China’s militarism.

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