U.S. again warns India against aligning with Russia, hopes for more cooperation


U.S. President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser has said the US has warned India against partnering too closely with Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, BBC reported.

“Our message to the Indian government is that the costs and consequences for them of moving into a more explicit strategic alignment with Russia will be significant and long-term,” White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese told reporters.

“There are certainly areas where we have been disappointed by both China and India’s decisions, in the context of the invasion,” he added.

India has so far declined to impose sanctions on Russia, as several other countries have done. India, which the U.S. sees as a counter to China’s power in Asia, is the largest importer of Russian weapons.

The fresh warning comes after US Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh’s much-publicized official visit to India last week. “What Daleep did make clear to his counterparts during this visit was that we don’t believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy and other commodities,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Washington remains hopeful of policy alignment with India “to the maximum extent possible” on sanctions on Russia, according to a senior U.S. official. “India is our friend, India is our partner, and we share interests and we share core principles that are at stake in this conflict,” the official said Wednesday.

“We have had extensive discussions about ways to further cooperation on global food security, on global energy supplies, and certainly in terms of recognizing that [Russia’s President Vladimir] Putin’s brutality affects all of us,” the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said.

The official was answering a question on India and the latest set of sanctions imposed on Russia and how far New Delhi has moved towards “convergence” with the U.S. on the matter. “The geopolitical implications of Russia’s actions do have ripple effects,” the official said. “And, of course, we remain hopeful that we can have alignment to the maximum extent possible.”

A test of the degree of alignment in the approaches of the two countries is likely to come as early as Thursday when the U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote on a U.S. proposal to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

India made its strongest statement so far on Ukraine Monday with a condemnation of the atrocities allegedly committed by Russian troops withdrawing from the town of Bucha near Kyiv and calling for an independent investigation.

Responding to the images of killings of and atrocities against civilians, the U.S. announced a fresh set of sanctions targeting Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, Alfa Bank and family members of Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other officials.

However, there seems to be an obsession reflective of what can be described as the racially differentiated approach of the U.S. mainstream media to sanctions and India. In a pointed example, NBC Network correspondent Andrea Mitchell, in an interview broadcast Wednesday, said to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken: “Why aren’t we sanctioning China and India” because they “keep buying fuel from Russia and fueling this war, helping to fund Putin’s war”?

While she admitted “there are big loopholes and Europe still is buying natural gas and still will for another year”, she did not suggest sanctioning European countries for buying Russian energy. Blinken did not respond to her question.

At the White House briefing by Psaki, a reporter asked about “pressuring” India to not work with Russia or give it aid. Psaki pointed out that India is importing only between 1 and 2 percent of its oil from Russia and said, “We stand ready to support India in any efforts to diversify its imports and serve as a reliable supplier.”

On the part of the question whether the absence of an ambassador in New Delhi was affecting how the U.S. can pressure India, Psaki said, “We also engage with countries through a range of channels.” She referred to the visit to New Delhi by Deputy NSA Daleep Singh, who, she said, conveyed “clearly what the consequences of violating sanctions would be and what the mechanisms are”.

The nomination of Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India has hit a roadblock in the Senate, which has to approve the appointment of envoys. Following questions if the Los Angeles mayor was aware of allegations of sexual harassment against a close aide and did not take action, two Republican senators have blocked the nomination from coming to the full Senate for a vote though it has been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In the evenly divided Senate, Biden’s Democratic Party will need the support of all its 50 senators to see Garcetti through without the backing of any Republican senators. But some Democrats are hesitant to declare support for him just yet.

Psaki insisted Biden stands by his nominee. New Delhi is “an incredibly important diplomatic position”, she said.

The mention by the unnamed senior administration official of “extensive discussions about ways to further our cooperation on global food security” opens another avenue for cooperation between the U.S. and India — and possibly the Quad — on a global problem.

Exports from the world’s largest wheat exporter Russia and fifth-largest exporter Ukraine have been disrupted by the war, leading to warnings from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that a crisis affecting especially developing nations is in the offing.

India is the world’s second-largest wheat producer after China, but its exports have been small — about 5.5 million tons last year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. While its domestic consumption is big, India sits on a stockpile of wheat estimated at about 100 million tons, way more than a safety buffer would require, and could step in to fill some of the global gap.