US NSA advises prudence in India’s relations with Russia

Washington: US National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan on Thursday said a “bet on Russia as a long-term, reliable partner is not a good idea” for India or any other country and now that Russia has become a “junior partner” to China, Moscow will side with China in any conflict between the latter and India.

Sullivan, who was in India in June for a meeting with his counterpart Ajit Doval to discuss the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology, was responding to a question during an interview on MSNBC about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Moscow earlier in the week – followed closely by the US government and news media as, among other things, it coincided with the ongoing NATO summit here that has been dominated by concerns about Russia and its growing ties with China, Iran, and North Korea.

“We’ve made clear to every country in the world including India that a bet on Russia as a long-term, reliable partner is not a good bet,” he said.

“And that’s especially true, in our view, for India because Russia is becoming closer to China. In fact, it’s becoming the junior partner to China. And in that way, they would side with China over India any day of the week. And … Prime Minister Modi, of course, has profound concerns about the potential for Chinese aggression against India. Which we have seen over recent years.”

Sullivan went on to essentially lay out what has been the Biden administration’s overall approach to India’s long-term relationship with Russia — that is part of a “long game”.

“We’ll keep making that case. But countries like India do have a historic relationship with Russia. So none of this is going to change dramatically overnight. This is playing the long game. It is making investments in democratic partners and allies around the world including countries like India and we think that that will pay off as we go forward.”

India’s long-term ties with Russia have been an issue that the US has sought to deal with a mix of privately expressed misgivings to public statements of understanding.

State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller said on Tuesday the US has privately conveyed its concerns in private conversations, including one that took place within 24 hours of the Prime Minister’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin. But he did not share details of this conversation.

Occasionally, the US response hovers between frustration and anger. India’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 air defence systems, for instance, caused considerable consternation. Some US lawmakers called for sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which seeks to punish Russia by threatening countries that buy Russian goods of a sizable value with secondary sanctions.

US officials have said India’s Russian arms acquisitions are an impediment to interoperability between the militaries of India and the US and there is fear of US technology landing up in Russian hands.

“We are seeking to develop a much deeper and stronger technological relationship between the United States and India,” said US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, who had accompanied Sullivan on the June visit to India, when asked about arms transfers at a news briefing on his return.

“We have been clear which areas are affected by the continuing relationship between India and Russia militarily and technologically. I think we will take what steps we can to mitigate some of those engagements, and we have expressed some concerns, but at the same time we have confidence and trust in India and we’re seeking to advance our partnership in technology even in the context of those enduring ties.”

On the larger issue of India’s ties with Russia, he said: “I do want to underscore that the United States and India are both great powers. We have many areas of alignment, but it is not surprising that there would be areas where we’ve had perhaps different perspectives, views, historical ties. And I think in the context of our strategic partnership, I think what’s been important is our ability to share views on areas where we occasionally have disagreements, do those respectfully, and seek where possible to narrow those areas where there are differences.”



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