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Biden tells Modi Not in India’s interest to increase energy imports from Russia

By News Report & Agencies
April 12, 2022

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden made clear to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a virtual meeting on Monday it was not in India’s interest to increase its imports of energy from Russia, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Psaki described the meeting as productive and constructive, and not “adversarial.” She declined to say if President Biden asked for any specific commitments from India on energy imports.

Biden told PM Modi the US stood ready to help India diversify its energy imports, Psaki said, noting that India’s imports from the US are already much bigger than their Russian imports. “The president conveyed very clearly, that it is not in their interest to increase that,” she said.

Earlier, President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a “candid exchange of views” on the Ukraine crisis at a virtual summit, a senior administration official said, amid US frustration over New Delhi’s neutral stance on Russia’s invasion.

The hour-long talks were “warm and productive,” the official said, although Biden made no major demands of India and there was no indication of significant progress toward a unified posture on the conflict.

The South Asian nation has tried to walk a tightrope between maintaining relations with the West and avoiding alienating Russia, but has raised concerns in Washington by continuing to buy Russian oil.

Biden has been pressuring world leaders to take ahard line against Moscow, although the administration official said there was no “concrete ask and concrete answer” on energy imports during the meeting.

“We’ve been very clear that we’ve been able to ban oil and (gas) and coal imports from Russia, but other countries have to make their own choices,” she 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.”

Biden began the meeting by saluting the “deep connection” between the two countries and said he wanted to continue their “close consultation” over the war, as Modi appeared alongside him on a large screen.

The Indian prime minister described the Ukraine crisis as “very worrying” and recalled that India had supported talks between Ukraine and Russia while delivering medical assistance to Kyiv.

Biden and Modi failed to reach a joint condemnation of the Russian invasion when they last spoke in early March at a meeting of the so-called “Quad” alliance of the United States, India, Australia and Japan.

And New Delhi abstained when the UN General Assembly voted last week to suspend Russia from its seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council over allegations that Russian soldiers in Ukraine engaged in war crimes.

The United States has already warned that any country that actively helps Russia to circumvent international sanctions will suffer “consequences.” Yet this has not deterred India from working with Russia on a rupee-ruble payment mechanism to circumvent banking sanctions, while taking advantage of discounted oil prices offered by Russian producers.

Meanwhile India has bought at least three million barrels of crude from Russia since the start of the invasion on February 24, despite an embargo by Western nations.

Biden said on March 21 that India was an exception among Washington’s allies with its “somewhat shaky” response to the Russian offensive. In the Cold War, officially non-aligned India leaned towards the Soviet Union -- in part due to US support for arch-rival Pakistan -- buying its first Russian MiG-21 fighter jets in 1962. According to experts, Russia remains India’s biggest supplier of major arms and India is also Russia’s largest customer.