#RussiaUkraineWar: Distance yourself from Russia, take a clear position, US tells India after abstentions


WASHINGTON: The Biden administration has called on India to distance itself from Russia, in the face of repeated abstentions by the government on resolutions condemning the invasion of Ukraine. India is the only major US ally that has declined to publicly criticize Moscow, though it has called for an end to violence.

“What I can say is that India is a really important security partner of ours now and that we value that partnership. Moving forward, I hope that part of what happens with the extreme criticism that Russia has faced is that India will find it is now time to further distance itself from Russia,” Donald Lu, assistant US secretary of state for South Asian affairs, told a Senate subcommittee. He added that US officials have held talks with India to “underscore the importance of a collective response condemning Russia’s invasion”.

Ahead of the virtual meeting of the Quad, the Biden administration turned up the heat further, saying “there is no room for excuses or equivocation”. The other Quad members, Japan and Australia are more openly aligned with Washington.

Also Read: Putin Raises Nuclear Alert As Ukraine Resists

Separately, US officials publicly said the Biden administration is “working to urge India to take a clear position” following its three abstentions in the UN debates on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, non-votes that some in the administration and Congress see as placing New Delhi on Moscow’s side.

The officials acknowledged “pitched battles” within the Biden administration on the abstentions, ostensibly between hardliners who want to hold India’s feet to the fire, and those more inclined to accept New Delhi’s explanations for its vote: the fact that it needs the help of both Russia and Ukraine to extricate its 20,000 citizens, mostly students, from Ukraine; and its long-standing (but diminishing) legacy dependence on Russian arms supply, considered crucial particularly in view of tensions with China.

The matter came up in the Senate subcommittee as well, and Lu responded that new US sanctions on Russian banks will make it harder for countries to buy major defence equipment from Moscow though no decision had been reached on Washington granting a waiver to New Delhi to take delivery of Russian S400 surface-to-air missiles under an earlier contract. “It is going to be very hard for any country in the globe to buy major weapon systems from Russia because of the sweeping sanctions now placed on Russian banks,” Lu said.

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