The Biden administration is tight-lipped in its relationship with India over New Delhi’s refusal to join the United States in its campaign to isolate the Russian president Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinOn The Money – Job growth is booming in February The Senate invited to speak with Zelensky on Saturday Overnight Defense & National Security: Attack on Ukraine’s nuclear power plant rattles Washington MORE.
Administration officials said this week that they have been in a “battle” for months to persuade India, the world’s largest democracy, to join the United States, the European Union and other democratic nations in pushing back Putin’s authoritarian ambitions. These efforts have only increased since Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine last week.
While the United States and India have deepened relations over the past nearly two decades, New Delhi has for generations relied on Moscow’s delivery of military assistance and considers Russia its main ally against China’s attempts to further dominate the region.
But Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine and the death of an Indian student this week in the city of Kharkiv appear to turn public opinion in India towards Moscow and could move New Delhi closer to Washington.
Donald Lu, assistant foreign minister for South Asian affairs, told lawmakers this week that the administration “works every day to make sure we try to close the gap between where we are and where our Indian partners are.”
He added that the United States was warning India that China could become more courageous if Putin was not kept in check.
“Part of the answer here is that India understands what is happening in Ukraine will affect China’s behavior,” Lu said.
But the Foreign Ministry has tried to ease tensions, reportedly recalling a heavily worded cable to its diplomats who would have asked them to exhort Indian officials and stamped them as being in Russia’s camp to maintain a neutral stance and repeated calls for “dialogue” in speeches at the UN.
Tanvi Madan, a senior fellow in the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, said it is likely that there are differences among government officials on how to deal with India and that some feel New Delhi is closer to Washington than Moscow.
Madan said the withdrawn cable shows that “the administration understands that it is actually counterproductive and inappropriate to do such a thing”, and that while the crisis over Russia’s invasion “will complicate US-India ties in some ways … both sides make an effort to ensure that Russia does not inadvertently serve as a veto on the relationship. “
On Thursday, President Biden spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other members of the Quad – a four-nation alliance led by the United States and India to fight China – to discuss the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. The leaders agreed to meet in Tokyo in the coming months to reaffirm their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Former Indian Ambassador to the United States Navtej Sarna, who has served as a diplomat in both Moscow and Washington DC, told The Hill that this sends a message that both India and the United States are working to ensure that their relations are not harmed by their divergence. in relation to Russia. .
“The strategic convergence between India and the United States on China should not be allowed to falter. The important aspect is that it is just as much in the interest of the United States to continue to have strong ties with India,” Sarna said.
India faces itself backed into a corner, trying to balance its American relationship with managing its Russian interests. According to former Indian Ambassador to the United States Arun Kumar Singh, a key factor in India’s failure to condemn Russia vis-à-vis Ukraine at the UN is that it does not want Russia to “openly and definitively” take China’s side and wants it to remain neutral in the China-India crisis.
Indian and Chinese military forces have been locked in a 20-month standoff at its common border in the Himalayas since fighting broke out in June 2020.
“That [India-China] border crisis and the implications for the Indian defense play an important role in its decisions, ”Singh added.
But India’s purchase of the Russian S400 missile defense system, with the first arms deliveries arriving in December, is forcing the Biden administration to confront the requirements under US law to sanction New Delhi over such imports.
The sanctions would be imposed under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a 2017 law that imposes economic costs on countries that import or trade with Russia’s military industry.
The law allows for a presidential dispensation whose imposition of sanctions is considered to harm U.S. national security interests, an act that members of Congress from both parties and foreign policy experts believe is likely to be implemented for India.
Late. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenTrump says he could have ousted ‘gruesome’ Susan Collins by 2020 The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – War worries, funding capabilities, bomb scare Maryland’s Governor Hogan will not run for Senate MORE (D-Md.) Said during a hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee that he is “one of those who was very open to the idea that we might consider a waiver to India for the CAATSA sanctions” , but expressed concern about how New Delhi’s opposition to standing directly with Ukraine weighs on the Biden administration.
“India is the most populous democratic country in the world, one would think that this would be a moment when India would stand up in support of the people of Ukraine,” he said.
Republican senators have also expressed opposition to imposing CAATSA sanctions on India despite disappointment over New Delhi’s stance on Russia.
“I think that would be the wrong thing to do at this stage,” Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyHow Senator John Thune can save the GOP from Trump in 2024 Disgust against Putin triggers outcry – and more unity than expected Overnight Health Care – Presented by Alexion – Battle lines drawn over COVID-19 funding MORE (R-Utah), told The Hill when asked if he supported sanctions against India, but said he needed to study the issue further before making a final comment.
Late. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzEnergy and environment – Russian takeover triggers nuclear unrest Senate Conservatives are threatening to withhold government funding over the vaccine mandate The White House distances itself from Graham’s Putin’s comments MORE (R-Texas) told The Hill “it would be more useful to see India play more of a leading role” against Russia, but blamed the gap between Washington and New Delhi on the Biden administration’s policy.
“The Biden administration has spent 14 months pushing India away and it has been detrimental to India and detrimental to America.”
But Sarna said India would have taken this stance on Russia no matter who was in office.
“I do not think it has anything to do with the Biden administration. I think it has to do with a few factors – the historical relationship with Russia and India’s dependence on Russia. The possibility of a Russia-China axis given India’s geography in Asia, plays an important role in its decision-making, ”said Sarna.
Sarna added that India’s position between Russia and Ukraine has probably caused the CAATSA exemption to hang in a balance.
“India may have to work harder to get that dispensation. It will depend on how strong the administration feels about this,” he said.
But both former Indian ambassadors to the United States agree that India is in an uncomfortable situation and a change of attitude will depend on what is happening on the ground. They say its primary goal is to get its citizens out of the war zone, where at least 18,000 Indian students are present.
“India is focused on getting the students from there, and for that purpose you have to be able to talk to both sides. “I do not think it makes sense for India to change its position on voting in the UN, but it will see how the situation develops,” Singh added.