US Congress may consider whether or not to employ means to ‘encourage’ India to cut ties with Russia: report

The war in Ukraine has tested the partnership between India and the United States, which has been one of the most notable shifts in global power politics in the 21st century, according to a report which highlights that the Congress could consider whether or not to employ means of “encouraging” New Delhi to reduce its ties with Moscow.

For members of Congress and U.S. policymakers seeking to encourage India to help isolate Russia diplomatically and economically, and reduce Moscow’s ability to maintain active hostilities, efforts may need to focus on initiatives that allow India to depend less on Russia but avoid pushing Russia and China closer to each other, says the independent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

CRS is a bipartisan, independent research wing of the US Congress that periodically prepares reports on issues of interest so lawmakers can make informed decisions.

“Congress could consider whether or not to use its watchdog function to ensure that the State Department, Defense Department and others pursue bilateral and regional strategies that offer India a way to maintain its strategic autonomy while encouraging Russia’s move away,” CRS said in its report, “Indo-Russian Relations and Implications for U.S. Interests.”

To date, Biden administration officials have acknowledged India’s neutrality motivations over the invasion of Ukraine and appear willing to respect ongoing Indo-Russian relations in pursuit of what the administration sees as broader U.S. interests.

As the war in Ukraine continues, the Biden administration and Congress could consider whether or not to choose policy approaches intended to change the current dynamic, he said.

Since 2017, US law (PL 115-44) requires the president to impose sanctions on anyone determined to have engaged in “material transactions” with the Russian defense or intelligence sectors.

Although the Biden administration has yet to make a decision in India’s case, India’s late 2021 deployment of a new multi-billion dollar air defense system supplied by Russia (the S -400 Triumf) highlighted the issue, he said.

The war in Ukraine has tested the Indo-US partnership, which has been one of the most notable shifts in world power politics in the 21st century, he said.

Unlike many other major Western powers, India did not criticize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and abstained in votes on UN platforms to condemn Russian aggression.

India has been criticized by U.S. lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, for choosing to abstain in UN votes to rebuke Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. New Delhi has strong defense ties with Moscow.

In October 2018, India signed a $5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 Triumf air defense missile systems to bolster its air defenses, despite a warning from the Trump administration to the time that continuing the contract could invite US sanctions.

The United States has already imposed CAATSA sanctions on Turkey over the purchase of a batch of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia.

Despite strong objections from the United States and the threat of sanctions from the Biden administration, India has refused to change its decision and is proceeding with the purchase of the missile defense system.

India pursues an independent foreign policy and its defense acquisitions are guided by its national security interests, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in November last year.

The United States has long encouraged India to further reduce its purchases of Russian military equipment and further diversify its sources of defense goods.

As a “major defense partner” of the United States and a recent signatory to several supportive bilateral defense pacts, New Delhi is poised to increase its defense engagement with Washington, including through new initiatives that would being considered by the Biden administration, according to the report.

Beyond the issue of the arms trade and the defense relationship between the United States and India – which could be further facilitated by changes in US legislation – Congress could consider other ways to encourage the India (and other US partners) to cut ties with Russia, he said.

According to CRS, three central factors – international strategy/diplomacy, arms trade and energy trade – underpin India’s current neutral stance on the war in Ukraine and leave New Delhi unwilling to antagonize the US or Russia.

First, China has emerged as the most significant perceived threat to Indian interests in South Asia, and China as a key ally of Pakistan, India’s traditional regional rival.

Indian planners are sensitive to signs that Russia and China are moving closer or cooperating in ways that facilitate Chinese aspirations in Asia, which many analysts describe in terms of Beijing’s struggle for regional hegemony.

Secondly, Russia is and has long been India’s main arms supplier, and India needs a continuous flow of arms and spare parts supplied by Russia if its military forces are to function effectively. .

Finally, India’s growing appetite for energy imports makes Russia a major supplier and investor in this sector, offering oil and coal at attractive prices for a government whose main objective is development. and poverty reduction, according to the report.

Imports of edible oils and fertilizers from Russia and Ukraine are also critical to India’s food security and a major concern for New Delhi, he said.

CRS said that, by most accounts, India’s prominence in US national security planning led US officials to accept (or at least tolerate) New Delhi’s neutral stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

After initially chastising India for its stance on Russia, administration officials have moderated their rhetoric, and readings from the April 2+2 dialogue in Washington, D.C., and the May Quad summit in Tokyo have indicated that the leaders sought to highlight convergent Indo-Pacific strategies and not allow the war in Ukraine to divert attention to Asia, according to the report.

The United States and European countries have imposed heavy sanctions on Russia since Moscow sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.

India increased its oil imports from Russia after the Ukraine war despite criticism from the West and continues to engage Moscow for business.

In May, Russia overtook Saudi Arabia to become India’s second-largest oil supplier behind Iraq, as refiners snatched up Russian crude available at a huge discount after the war in Ukraine.

Indian refiners bought around 25 million barrels of Russian oil in May.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar this week defended India’s import of cut-price Russian oil, saying the government has a moral duty to ensure the Indian people get the best deal amid unreasonably high oil prices.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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