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Biden officials bat for India amid criticism of New Delhi’s stand on Russia-Ukraine spat – Times of India



WASHINGTON: The Biden administration is batting for India and its nuanced stand on the Russia-Ukraine imbroglio despite considerable disquiet in Congress over New Delhi’s abstentions during UN votes that appeared to favor Moscow.
Following intense outreach and briefings by Indian diplomats to explain New Delhi’s compulsions for abstaining, a key Pentagon official told a Congressional hearing on Wednesday that the US recognises India has a “complicated history and relationship” with Russia, while expressing optimism over New Delhi eventually weaning itself away from Moscow.
“The good news is that they are in a multi-year process of diversifying their arms purchases away from Russia. That’s going to take some time, but they are clearly committed to doing that, including increasing the indigenisation of their own defence industry,” Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, Ely Ratner, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.
“That’s something we should support. So, I think in terms of their relationship with Russia, the trend lines are moving in the right direction,” he added.
Ratner and other officials have been pressed in recent days by lawmakers, some of whom have clubbed India with China in describing them as being in the Russian camp. Indian diplomats have been working overtime to brief lawmakers, think tanks, and the administration that New Delhi’s abstention is driven foremost by humanitarian considerations, including the need to extricate more than 20,000 of its nationals in Ukraine, and it does not constitute an unqualified support for Russia’s actions.
At least one lawmaker also challenged the general perception that it is Russia more than the United States that has backed India in times of crisis, pointing out that it is Washington, not Moscow, that has stood by New Delhi in its problems with China, both in recent times and going back to the 1962 war.
“Did Russia do anything to protect India when China was violating the Line of Actual Control, to your knowledge?” Ro Khanna, the Indian-American Democrat from California asked. “Not to my knowledge,” replied Ratner.
“I think it’s obvious that the US would stand against Chinese aggression on the Line of Actual Control far more than Russia or Putin would, and that we really need to press India to not be as dependent on Russian defence and to be willing to condemn Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, just like we would condemn Chinese aggression beyond the Line of Actual Control,” Khanna asserted.
Many in the US strategic community have argued in recent days that Moscow’s growing closeness to China is inimical to India’s interests, including its dependence on Russian arms.
Republican lawmakers normally well-inclined towards India also piled on to New Delhi, with South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson describing India’s abstention as “shocking” and “unnatural.”
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s relationship should be with the United States, and not with a megalomaniac Putin… Both Democrats and Republicans are appalled that there would be abstention by the great country of India,” Wilson said.

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