Ukraine: Biden and Modi had “frank” discussion, but without real rapprochement – 11/04/2022 at 10:09 PM

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

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

Joe Biden and Narendra Modi had a “candid” virtual exchange on Monday, but it doesn’t seem to reconcile views on the war in Ukraine, a topic that is destabilizing India-United States relations.

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

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

The Americans fear that India will come to the rescue of Russia by overturning some of the sanctions linked to the invasion of Ukraine, such as ending or reducing Western-declared imports of gas, oil or coal from Russia.

The Biden administration, which wants to consolidate US alliances in the Asia-Pacific zone to deal with China, and in particular relaunch the so-called “Quad” format (United States, India, Australia and Japan), is ashamed of the less New Delhi’s positioning 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 because of its “strategic partnership” for its national security.

– Russian weapons –

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

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

As a result, after claiming at the outset of the war that each country should take a clear stance, the US government pretended to understand India’s prudence — though it raised its voice more clearly against China.

“India is making its own decisions,” the senior US official said in response to questions about energy or New Delhi’s non-participation in the vote condemning Moscow at the UN.

The US strategy therefore seems to be aimed at multiplying the signs of friendship in order to prevent India from gradually slipping into the hostile camp.

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

The Indian prime minister limited himself to describing the situation in Ukraine as “deeply worrying”, recalling his support for the Russo-Ukrainian negotiations that Washington is watching with skepticism.

“This is an important moment in world affairs, and I think this partnership is even more important and vital as a result,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said moments later, opening a face-to-face meeting in Washington with his Indian counterpart and the defense ministers of both countries.

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

Efforts are underway on the US side to convince India that a bet on Russia will eventually weaken the country against China, whose confirmation in Asia-Pacific worries both Washington and New Delhi.

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