The US is in “deep talks” with India over loosening its dependency on Russia for its weapons and energy, a US state department official said.
Indian representatives are also starting to realise that there “could be real benefits for them” in diversifying since Moscow is no longer a reliable partner while it remains engaged in a war with Ukraine, said the official.
“India is heavily, heavily dependent on Russia, and that’s something that they did to themselves over some 40 years: first their military and then their energy dependence,” the official said, according to CNN.
“So we have been in deep conversation with India about the fact that we want to help them have options to diversify here.”
Responding to the comments, Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that India is not a country that can be pressured.
But Bagchi conceded that topics of defence or energy could have been discussed as the two nations are in wide-ranging discussions on regular basis.
“I don’t think India is a country you pressure and hope to get results … India’s position stems from our own beliefs and our interests of what we need to do,” he said.
Russia is the world’s second-largest arms supplier after the US, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It also remains the world’s largest exporter of oil to global markets .
While Russia is historically one of the largest suppliers of arms and ammunition to India, its sale of crude oil at discounted rates has jumped dramatically to a record of 18 per cent in June.
The efforts to wean India off Russia for its defence dependence is significant, as New Delhi has been the largest arms importer globally and the Stimson Centre estimates that Russian weaponry could account for up to 85 per cent of major Indian weapons systems.
India has so far resisted joining the West in its efforts to isolate Russia over Ukraine and cut its economic ties with the Kremlin, and the increasing trade of oil, coal and fertiliser has added to the concerns of the US and Europe.
While India continued to urge Russia and Ukraine to pursue “dialogue and diplomacy” during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Uzbekistan last week, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi appeared to directly snub Vladimir Putin in his first such public statement, indicating a possible change in the country’s tone and growing frustration with the war.
In a face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the summit, Mr Modi reminded Mr Putin of the many telephone conversations the pair have had regarding “democracy and diplomacy and dialogue”, and how these are all “things that touch the world”.
Mr Modi’s comments were welcomed by the US, with national security adviser Jake Sullivan saying it was a statement of principle on behalf of what he believes is right and just.
“They can do it publicly if they like. They can do it privately if they like. But sending that clear and unmistakable message to Moscow at this time is the most vital thing I think we can collectively do to produce peace in that region.”
In another development, India was among more than 100 countries that voted in favour of allowing Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to address the United Nations General Assembly session through a pre-recorded speech – after repeatedly abstaining from a UN vote to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council in the past.
Meanwhile, India’s diplomatic ties and trade with the US and other countries are also on the rise. The US said its trade increased with 15 top partners in 2021 but it saw the single biggest jump with India, rising to $157bn.
UK and India defence ties also got a shot in the arm in April after former prime minister Boris Johnson and Mr Modi agreed to a new and expanded defence partnership. He also gave an ambitious deadline to seal a Free Trade Agreement by the Hindu festival of Diwali in October.