“We remain in touch through a range of channels from our national security team with leaders in India and continue to encourage leaders to work closely with us to stand up against President Putin‘s invasion of Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at her daily briefing on Wednesday when asked how the two countries are working together.
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The administration’s soft-pedalling on India’s largely neutral stance comes amid impatience from some lawmakers, including one from the so-called Samosa caucus, who wants New Delhi to align more vocally with Washington.
“As the senior Indian American Member of Congress, I was deeply disappointed in India’s abstention from the United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Despite India’s long history defending its own border from outside aggression, New Delhi has chosen to remain silent on Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of a free and sovereign country,” California Congressman Ami Bera complained this week.
“Even worse, India is now reportedly looking to bypass international sanctions and buy Russian oil at a steeply discounted rate, potentially giving Putin an economic lifeline at a time when the Russian economy is reeling from international sanctions,” Bera said, resulting in Indian partisans trolling him on social media, reminding him that US’ European allies continue to buy Russian oil and gas to the tune of $ 600 million a day despite their spat with Moscow.
On Wednesday, two more lawmakers joined Bera in piling on to New Delhi, expressing disappointment at India’s stand.
“We deeply value the relationship between the United States and India. At the same time, we are disappointed that India has taken this approach in response to Russia’s actions. We understand that India walks a difficult middle ground, but Russia’s actions have no place in the 21st century,” Congressmen Ted Lieu and Tom Malinowski said in a letter to India’s ambassador to US Taranjit Sandhu.
“Many countries who have relationships with Russia did the right thing and condemned the Russian government – they chose the right side of history and so should India. We hope that India will move away from its current position that places blame on both sides and acknowledge that Russia is the aggressor in this conflict,” they added.
Biden administration officials say the US recognises that India has a “complicated history and relationship with Russia” while hoping it would still speak up against the invasion. Part of Washington’s measured response is driven by the view that China is far in cahoots with Russia than India, which is viewed as victim of Chinese expansionism.
The White House said on Thursday that President Biden would be speaking with China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday to “discuss managing the competition between our two countries as well as Russia’s war against Ukraine and other issues of mutual concern.”