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US continues to engage with India to underscore importance of condemning Russian invasion: Top diplomat

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Donald Lu, said America's relationship with India is one of the defining partnerships that will determine the security of Asia, of the United States and of the world.

Andrey Goncharuk, a member of territorial defense at the backyard of a house that was damaged by a Russian airstrike in Gorenka, Ukraine, March 2, 2022. (AP)

The Joe Biden administration continues to engage with India to underscore the importance of a collective response condemning Russia’s military operation against Ukraine, a top US diplomat said on Wednesday.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Donald Lu, was speaking to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, just after India had abstained from a vote on the UN General Assembly resolution. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, of course, is foremost on our minds, and the (State) Department continues to engage India closely to underscore the importance of a collective response condemning Russia’s invasion,” Lu said.

The Indian government’s rationale was that it wanted room for the possibility of a diplomatic solution and was concerned about the welfare of the more than 18,000 students stranded in the war-torn eastern European country.

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Testifying before Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism on the issue of “India US relationship”, Lu told lawmakers that America’s relationship with India is one of the defining partnerships that will determine the security of Asia, of the United States and of the world. “It’s a relationship that we have to get right.”

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While reminding the lawmakers of the traditional and historic relationship that India has with Russia, the American diplomat said that since 2011, India has reduced its arms imports from Russia by 53 per cent and increased its defence purchases from the United States and other partners as well as increasing its own domestic production capability.

At the same time, US defence sales to India have grown to over USD20 billion and India is considering purchasing an additional six P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft for USD 2.1 million, he explained.
The majority of defence systems acquired by India over the past decade have been from the US and Europe, he asserted.

Responding to questions from lawmakers on India’s position on Russia, the Assistant Secretary defended New Delhi’s position on the issue.

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Senior officials of the Biden administration have been relentlessly conducting a very serious high-level dialogue with their Indian counterparts on the situation in Ukraine, he said.

“Over the course of months now, but culminating in this past week, we can already see an evolution in some of India’s public position. I had several conversations with Indian officials in the past 24 hours,” he said.

A day earlier, an Indian student was killed in Russian bombing in Kharkiv, which Lu said had turned public opinion in India against Russia, a country perceived as a partner.

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“Undeniably, that partner has just killed a young Indian man, who is an innocent victim in Ukraine. Let me say that all of us have been working to urge India to take a clear position opposing Russia’s actions,” he said.

In response to a question from Senator Ted Cruz, Lu said that in its outreach to India, the United States has not failed to try to leverage New Delhi’s relationship with Russia to try to call for the Russian withdrawal of troops.

“We have been in touch with Indian leaders and Prime Minister Modi called both Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy to call for an end to the fighting,” he said.

In response to a question from Senator Chris Van Hollen, Lu said the Biden administration has spared no effort to try to convince India both to vote in UN sessions, but also to show support for Ukraine at this critical moment. Those efforts were led by Secretary of State Blinken, he added.

First published on: 03-03-2022 at 02:27:32 pm
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