Ukraine: Biden and Modi had a “frank” discussion, but without any real rapprochement – 04/11/2022 22:09

US President Joe Biden during a virtual exchange with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, April 11, 2022 at the White House (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

Joe Biden and Narendra Modi had a “candid” virtual exchange on Monday, but it did not appear to have communicated positions on the war in Ukraine, a topic that destabilizes the relationship between India and the United States.

A senior White House official explained to reporters that the US President and the Indian Prime Minister had a discussion that lasted about an hour, “warm” but above all “frank” – this adjective used several times in diplomatic language that conveys a certain tension.

The president made it clear that he did not believe it was in India’s interest to speed up or increase its imports of Russian energy, which so far is a very small part of its purchases, “or other raw materials,” then reported it and spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that Washington was ready to “help” the Indians to Diversify them.

The Americans fear that India will come to Russia’s aid by compensating for some of the sanctions associated with the invasion of Ukraine, such as ending or reducing Russian imports of gas, oil or coal imposed by the West.

The Biden administration, which wants to strengthen US alliances in the Asia-Pacific region to deal with China, and in particular relaunch the so-called “Quadruple” (US, India, Australia and Japan), is less embarrassed by New Delhi’s positioning since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Against the backdrop of close ties inherited from the Cold War, the Narendra Modi government describes Moscow as a “key pillar” of its foreign policy due to its “strategic partnership” for its national security.

– Russian weapons –

Russia remains the main supplier of arms to India, but New Delhi also imports, in addition to oil, Russian fertilizers and rough diamonds. India exports to the Russian market pharmaceutical products, tea and coffee.

The White House, well aware of India’s dependence on Russia in military matters, knows that it cannot publicly rush this important ally.

As a result, after emphasizing at the start of the war that every country should take a clear stand, the US government pretended to understand India’s caution – even though it clearly raised its voice against China.

“India is making its own decisions,” commented the senior US official, in response to questions about energy or the fact that New Delhi has not joined the voices condemning Moscow at the United Nations.

So it appears that the US strategy is to double down on the symbols of friendship to prevent India from sliding gradually into the opposing camp.

At the beginning of the virtual meeting, Joe Biden praised the “deep relationship” between the two countries, and in front of a large screen on which Narendra Modi appeared, he expressed his desire to “continue” “close consultations” on Ukraine.

The Indian Prime Minister was limited to describing the situation in Ukraine as “extremely worrying”, recalling his support for the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations, which Washington is watching with suspicion.

“This is an important moment in global affairs, and I think this partnership is even more important and vital as a result,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said shortly afterwards at the opening of a face-to-face meeting in Washington with his American counterpart. India’s counterpart and defense ministers of the two countries.

In a sign of the competition between Americans and Russians to attract New Delhi’s support, the recent visit to the Indian capital of one of Joe Biden’s top security advisers, Dalip Singh, almost coincided with that of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who had come to praise India’s balanced approach to the war in Ukraine.

On the American side, efforts are being made to convince India that betting on Russia will eventually weaken it against China, whose assertion in the Asia-Pacific region worries Washington and New Delhi.

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