By Krishna N. Das
NEW DELHI (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden has said only India among the Quad group of countries was “somewhat shaky” in acting against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, as India tries to balance its ties with Russia and the West.
While the other Quad countries – the United States, Japan and Australia – have sanctioned Russian entities or people, India has not imposed sanctions on its biggest supplier of military hardware.
India has urged an end to the violence in Ukraine but has not condemned its old Cold War ally for the invasion.
“In response to his aggression, we have presented a united front throughout the NATO and in the Pacific,” Biden told a business forum on Monday, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The Quad – with the possible exception of India being somewhat shaky on some of these – but Japan has been extremely strong, so is Australia in terms of dealing with Putin’s aggression.”
Putin says Russia is carrying out “a special military operation” to stop the Ukrainian government from committing “genocide” – an accusation the West calls a baseless fabrication.
After a virtual summit between the Australian and Indian prime ministers on Monday, India’s foreign ministry said Australia understood India’s position on Ukraine, which “reflected our own situation, our own considerations”.
Even though India has grown close to the United States in recent years, it still depends on Russia for a continuous supply of arms and ammunition amid a Himalayan border standoff with China and perennial tension with Pakistan.
India is also considering buying more Russian oil at a discount, with two Indian state companies recently ordering 5 million barrels. Indian analysts and government officials point out that European countries are buying fuel from Russia, while publicly criticising Moscow.
Victoria Nuland, a U.S. Under Secretary of State who met India’s foreign secretary on Monday, told Indian broadcaster NDTV that the United States had not asked partners like India to suddenly stop energy purchases from Russia.
“We have made clear in our conversation that we understand that’s not something that you can cut off immediately, in the same way that we’ve been clear with our European allies who are still too dependent on Russian energy that we understand that they will have to evolve away from it as well,” she said in an interview broadcast on Tuesday.
“But what we do want to do is work together to find alternative sources over time. And that’s what we hope to do with India, whether it’s with regard to the security relationship, the energy relationship, etc.”
She also said Washington could help New Delhi source Soviet-era defence equipment from outside Russia.
“We have been supporting the sourcing of security needs for Ukraine, along with our allies and partners, from around the world, including some Soviet-era equipment,” Nuland said.
“And those are the kinds of things that we can do with India as it continues to evolve its position.”
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das;Editing by Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie)