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Quad meeting: Biden pulls out China card to persuade India to renounce Russia

Source : The Times of India

Quad meeting: Biden pulls out China card to persuade India to renounce Russia
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Differences between United States and India over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have spilled out in the open after the Biden administration on Thursday turned the heat on New Delhi to join the US-led condemnation of Moscow, warning that “there is no room for excuses or equivocation.”

In an effort to force India to publicly denounced and renounce Russia, US President Joe Biden pulled out the China card, convening an emergency virtual meeting of Quad countries, whose other countries, Japan and Australia, are more openly aligned with Washington.

Although the Quad has been described a non-military grouping with focus on the Indo-Pacific, the White House move suggested its remit is now being expanded to the Euro-Atlantic region, the guidance for the meeting saying it would discuss the “war against #Ukraine and its implications for the Indo-Pacific.” India’s External Affairs Minister S.Jaishankar had rejected putting Ukraine on the Quad agenda last month, telling reporters after the Quad meeting in Melbourne that “this meeting is focused on the Indo-Pacific, so I think you should figure out the geography there.”

Separately, US officials publicly said the Biden administration is “working to urge India to take clear position” in lieu of its three abstentions in the UN debates on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, non-votes that some in the administration and Congress see as placing New Delhi on Moscow’s side.

In fact, the State Department on Wednesday reportedly pulled a cable advising its diplomats to torch India and UAE, both seen as US partners, for abstaining from the vote to condemn for the Russian invasion, saying their “position of neutrality” on Ukraine put them “in Russia’s camp.”

While the UAE changed tack and voted for the General Assembly resolution excoriating Russia after two abstentions during Security Council votes, India abstained from the third vote too, as did China. While not explicitly referring to India, Biden said in a statement that the General Assembly vote “lays bare Putin’s isolation” and the world is rejecting “Russia’s lies.”

“There is no room for excuses or equivocation. Russia is to blame…. Together, we must—and we will—hold Russia accountable for its actions,” he said. While the US State Department said the cable was withdrawn because it included “inaccurate language and was released in error,” US officials acknowledged “pitched battles” within the administration on India’s abstentions, ostensibly between hardliners who want to hold its feet to the fire, and those more inclined to accept New Delhi’s explanations for its vote: the fact that it needs the help of both Russia and Ukraine to extricate its 20,000 citizens, mostly students, from Ukraine; and its long-standing (but diminishing) legacy dependence on Russian arms supply, considered crucial particularly in view of tensions with China.

In fact, New Delhi has pushed back against the impression in some quarters that its abstaining constitutes being in Russian camp, pointing out that it has stood up for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries involved — an implicit criticism of Moscow crossing the red line.

The State Department acknowledges that. “India has expressed its deep concern over the situation in Ukraine and has reiterated its call for immediate cessation of violence and an end to hostilities. As India has stated, ‘all member states of the United Nations are not only obliged to follow the UN Charter but to respect international law and territorial integrity and sovereignty of states.'” it said in a readout on Thursday.

Perception in the US Congress — where India came under fire during a hearing on Thursday — is that New Delhi is struggling to free itself from reliance on Moscow, a view endorsed by the administration, whose pointperson for South Asia, Donald Lu, said that has been a 53 per cent decrease in India’s purchase of Russian arms but there was still work to be done.

“I understand the weapons connection but that does not explain India not voting for the values it espouses. I am disappointed it abstained,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire. Lu said there are ongoing dialogues at the highest level to narrow the gap between the two sides.

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