PM Modi, Biden’s Virtual Meet Tomorrow, Will Review Bilateral Cooperation

New Delhi:

Amid hectic diplomatic activity with growing pressure from the West on India’s oil deals with Russia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will virtually meet with US President Joe Biden on Monday.

“The two leaders will review ongoing bilateral cooperation and exchange views on recent developments in South Asia, the Indo-Pacific region and global issues of mutual interest,” a media release said.

The virtual meeting will enable both sides to continue their regular and high-level engagement aimed at further strengthening the bilateral Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, it added.

The situation in Ukraine is expected to come up in the conversation. Biden Administration’s key architect for Russian sanctions US  Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Daleep Singh had recently ruffled feathers by reportedly cautioning India against Russian oil imports. The White House had, however, clarified that Mr Singh had a constructive dialogue on his trip and his remarks shouldn’t be seen as a warning.

“He (Singh) went and had a constructive conversation and made clear that while it’s the decision of each individual country, including India, to determine whether they’re going to import Russian oil, it is only 1 to 2 per cent of their imports, About 10 per cent of their imports is from the United States,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

“What Daleep did make clear to his counterparts during this visit, was that we don’t believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy and other commodities,” Ms Psaki had said.

The two leaders will advance ongoing conversations about the development of an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and delivering high-quality infrastructure, Ms Psaki today said about the scheduled virtual meeting.

“Biden will continue our close consultations on the consequences of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and mitigating its destabilising impact on global food supply and commodity markets,” she said.

President Biden last spoke to Prime Minister Modi with other Quad Leaders in March.

Recent public statements from Washington warning India about the consequences of purchases of weapons and discounted oil from Russia are contrary to private discussions between the two sides, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in his recent visit to India had batted for alternate payment through national currencies as a way to “bypass” international restrictions. 

Noting that Russia was “ready to provide India with any goods that it wants to purchase”, Mr Lavrov said, “This is a way to bypass the artificial impediment created by the illegal unilateral sanctions of the West.”

“We don’t want to rely on a system that can be shut down at any moment and whose owners can steal money from us,” he had observed.

The US has publicly expressed disappointment and discomfort with India’s decision to not explicitly side with any party in the ongoing Ukraine crisis. “Now is the time to stand on the right side of history, and to stand with the United States and dozens of other countries, standing up for freedom, democracy and sovereignty with the Ukrainian people, and not funding and fueling and aiding President Putin’s war,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters in Washington late last month after the Russian Foreign Minister’s visit as news of India considering Mr Lavrov’s offer spread.

This interaction will be followed by the fourth India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue which will be led by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of External Affairs Dr S Jaishankar on the Indian side and their US counterparts, Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The two Indian Ministers will also have other meetings scheduled on the sidelines.

“The 2+2 Ministerial is an important opportunity to advance our shared objectives across the breadth of the US-India Strategic Partnership, including enhancing our people-to-people ties and education cooperation, building diverse, resilient supply chains for critical and emerging technology, scaling up our climate action and public health cooperation, and developing a trade and investment partnership to increase prosperity for working families in both countries,” the Office of the US State Department Spokesperson had said two days ago.

The dialogue is also a chance to highlight the growing major defense partnership between the United States and India, the statement said.

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