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


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

Joe Biden and Narendra Modi held a “frank” virtual exchange on Monday, but it does not seem to have reconciled positions on the war in Ukraine, an issue that destabilizes the relationship between India and the United States.

A senior White House official explained to journalists that the US president and the Indian prime minister had a conversation of about an hour, “warm” but above all “frank” – she used this adjective several times, which diplomatic language conveys a certain strain-.

“The president has made it clear that he does not believe that it is in India’s interest to accelerate or increase its imports of Russian energy,” which is so far a very small part of its purchases, “or other raw materials,” his spokeswoman Jen later reported. Psaki, assuring that Washington was even willing to “help” the Indians to “diversify” them.

The Americans fear that India will fly to Russia’s aid by offsetting some of the sanctions linked to the Ukraine invasion, such as the end or reduction of Russian gas, oil or coal imports decreed by the West.

The Biden administration, which wants to consolidate US alliances in the Asia-Pacific area to deal with China, and in particular relaunch the so-called “Quad” format (United States, India, Australia and Japan), is for the least embarrassed by Positioning of New Delhi since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.

Against the background of close ties inherited from the Cold War, Narendra Modi’s government describes Moscow as an “essential pillar” of its foreign policy due to its “strategic partnership” for its national security.

– Russian weapons –

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

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 stating at the start of the war that each country had to take a clear stand, the US government pretended to understand India’s caution, although it raised its voice more clearly against China.

“India makes its own decisions,” the senior US official commented when asked about energy or the fact that New Delhi did not join the votes condemning Moscow at the UN.

Therefore, the US strategy seems to be aimed at multiplying signs of friendship to prevent India from slipping progressively into the opposite camp.

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

The Indian prime minister limited himself to qualifying the situation in Ukraine as “very worrying”, recalling his support for the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations that Washington views with skepticism.

“This is an important moment in world affairs, and I believe this partnership is even more crucial and vital as a result,” US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said shortly afterward at the opening of a face-to-face meeting. in Washington with his Indian counterpart and the defense ministers of both countries.

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

On the US side, attempts are being made to convince India that betting on Russia will end up weakening it against China, whose assertion in Asia-Pacific worries both Washington and New Delhi.

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