Ukraine: the United States and India spare each other without bringing their positions closer

Joe Biden and Narendra Modi had a “frank” virtual exchange on Monday, but which does not seem to have brought the positions closer to the war in Ukraine, a subject which destabilizes the relationship between India and the United States.

“It is important that all countries, especially those who have influence” on Russian President Vladimir Putin, “urge him to put an end to the war”, declared the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken in front of the press after this summit by videoconference followed by a meeting in Washington with his Indian counterpart and the defense ministers of the two countries.

“And it is also important that democracies (…) speak with one voice to defend the values ​​we share,” he added.

The Biden administration, which has made India a pillar of American alliances in the Asia-Pacific zone against China, has been embarrassed by New Delhi’s positioning since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Narendra Modi’s government has refrained from openly condemning the Russian invasion, and from joining in the votes to that effect at the UN.

During his exchange with Joe Biden, the Indian Prime Minister limited himself to qualifying the situation in Ukraine as “very worrying”, recalling his support for the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations which Washington observes for its part with skepticism.

Pressed with questions about this lack of conviction, the head of Indian diplomacy S. Jaishankar did not hide a hint of annoyance. “Thank you for your advice and suggestions, but I prefer to do it my way,” he told a journalist during his press conference with Antony Blinken.

And while, according to the White House, the American president has warned that it would not be “in India’s interest to accelerate” its imports of Russian energy — which would partly offset the reduction in western purchases — the Indian minister was equally scathing. “Our purchases in a month are probably lower than in Europe in an afternoon,” he replied.

The nearly hour-long conversation between Joe Biden and Narendra Modi was thus “warm” but above all “frank”, according to a senior White House official, who repeatedly used this adjective translating, in diplomatic language, a some tension.

“Critical” partnership

Failing to win over this key ally to its cause, Washington therefore seems to be multiplying the pledges of friendship to prevent it from gradually slipping into the Russian camp, which is also courting it.

At the start of the virtual meeting, Joe Biden praised the “deep connection” between the two countries and, facing a large screen on which Narendra Modi appeared, expressed his wish to “continue” the “close consultations” on Ukraine.

“This is an important moment in world affairs and I think this partnership is therefore even more crucial and vital”, also insisted Antony Blinken.

The United States, aware of India’s dependence on Russia for military equipment against the backdrop of close ties inherited from the Cold War, knows that it cannot publicly rush it.

Therefore, after asserting at the start of the war that any country should take a clear position, the American government pretended to be understanding of India’s caution — even as it more clearly raised its voice against China.

“India must make its own decisions in the face of this challenge”, commented Antony Blinken, without criticizing it frontally. On the contrary, he acknowledged that she had “condemned the killing of civilians” in Ukraine while “providing significant humanitarian aid”.

Likewise, he repeatedly pointed out that while Indo-Russian relations were much older than those between Washington and New Delhi, the latter were now developing at high speed.

In disagreement on the war itself, the American and Indian leaders have therefore emphasized their common desire to mitigate its effects on the world economy, and on other common ground, with in particular the signing of a space cooperation agreement.

04/12/2022 00:59:46 – Washington (AFP) – © 2022 AFP

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