WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has steered encouraging India to voluntarily disengage from Russia as an alternative of slapping sanctions on New Delhi for purchasing oil and weapons from Moscow.
“Where we can, it is far preferable to get countries to voluntarily not engage in these practices, and that’s where our diplomacy is focused,” Mr Blinken stated at considered one of his a number of congressional hearings in Washington this week.
Democratic senators urged Secretary Blinken at these hearings to place extra stress on India for persevering with to do enterprise with Russia regardless of its invasion of Ukraine.
“They go buy oil from Russia. They buy the S-400 [anti-missile system]. They abstain at the United Nations [on votes criticising Russia],” stated Senator Bob Menendez, who heads the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
“But they are a member of the Quad,” he stated, referring to a US-led alliance of like-minded nations for holding China’s affect within the Indian-Pacific area. “So, at some point messages that we send globally here are inconsistent. When we say we’re ‘troubled’ and ‘disappointed,’ that doesn’t cut it.”
Secretary Blinken, who was defending the State Department’s fiscal 2023 price range request, acknowledged this ‘uncomfortable reality’ but in addition urged lawmakers to see the broader image.
“We’re at a very important strategic moment as various countries … are possibly reconsidering some of their other relationships, including with Russia,” he stated in his first of 4 appearances in Congress this week. “As a strategic proposition, I think it’s very much in our interests to encourage that and work with that and see what we can do to … take advantage of other strategic opportunities that may present themselves as a result of Russia’s aggression.”
In one other listening to at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, Secretary Blinken informed the lawmakers that India’s relationship with Russia goes again many years.
“Russia, for India, was out of necessity a partner of choice when we were not in a position to be a partner,” he stated in response to a query from Senator William Hagerty.
“Now, we are investing in that effort. I think there is a growing strategic convergence between the United States and India,” Mr Blinken stated. “And of course, China is a big part of that,” as Beijing’s rising affect within the area brings India nearer to the United States.
Mr Blinken stated US President Joe Biden had spent “a lot of time directly engaging with Prime Minister Modi and India’s leadership”.
At the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Menendez criticised the State Department for not forcefully calling out India’s resolution to extend oil purchases from Moscow simply as different US allies are curtail their very own power imports from Russia.
Senators stated they may recommend sanctioning India if it didn’t cease shopping for Russian defence tools, on which India has lengthy relied.
The US media, whereas reporting their remarks, famous that earlier than the Russian invasion of Ukraine, US lawmakers have been extra open to giving India a waiver for buying a Russian anti-missile system.
The US media reported that for the reason that Russian invasion, India has imported greater than double the quantity of crude oil from Russia that it did in all of 2021.
“Why aren’t we applying secondary sanctions against countries … that are increasing their imports from Russian commodities?” requested Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat. “There are countries that are taking advantage of discounted Russian oil prices … which only helps (President) Putin.”
Secretary Blinken stated Washington has “engaged with some countries” which are making the most of Russia’s discounted commodity exports.” But making use of particular person sanctions was inadvisable, he added.
Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2022