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Biden to press Indian Prime Minister Modi not to back Russian oil

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President Joe Biden on Monday will again press Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take a harder stance on Russia’s war in the Ukraine.

At the top of the meeting, he told Modi he looks forward to ‘our continued consultation and dialogue’ and noted the two countries care about the same ‘global concerns.’

Biden thanked Modi for India’s humanitarian support for the Ukraine.  

‘The United States and India is going to continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war. And I’m looking forward to our discussion today,’ Biden said. 

Biden and Modi’s virtual meeting comes as India – a member of The Quad alliance along with the United States –  has remained neutral in the conflict. 

Modi, however, defended his country’s position, saying he has spoken both with Russian President  Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, urging them to hold talks for a cease fire.

‘I spoke several times on the phone to the presidents of both Ukraine and Russia. I not only appealed for peace, but also suggested that there be direct talks between President Putin and the president of Ukraine,’ Modi said.

He also condemned the mass killings in Bucha, Ukraine. He noted India has seen medicine and other humanitarian assistance to the Ukraine. 

The first few minutes of the two leaders virtual call were made public before journalists were ushered out and the conversation continued behind closed doors.  

India continues to buy oil from Russia, purchasing at least 13 million barrels of Russian crude oil since Putin invaded Ukraine in late February despite pressure from the U.S. to scale back its purchases. 

As the war in the Ukraine enters its seventh week and Russia shifts its campaign to the eastern front, India’s neutralilty has raised concerns in Washington and earned praise from the Russians.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov praised India this month for judging ‘the situation in its entirety, not just in a one-sided way.’

And the situation has become a test for the Biden administration, which has tried to keep U.S. allies in lockstep against Putin’s aggression. 

President Joe Biden will again press Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take a harder stance on Russia's war in the Ukraine in virtual call

President Joe Biden will again press Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take a harder stance on Russia’s war in the Ukraine in virtual call

President Joe Biden meets virtually with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second left, and Indian Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh, second right

President Joe Biden meets virtually with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second left, and Indian Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh, second right

India's neutrality on the Russia-Ukraine war has been a test for President Joe Biden's administration

India’s neutrality on the Russia-Ukraine war has been a test for President Joe Biden’s administration

The call comes after India abstained when the U.N. General Assembly voted Thursday to suspend Russia from its seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council over allegations that Russian soldiers have engaged in war crimes.

Ukraine will be one of the main topics, according to the Biden administration. 

‘President Biden will continue our close consultations on the consequences of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and mitigating its destabilizing impact on global food supply and commodity markets,’ Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Sunday.

The announcement of the call from Modi’s government made no mention of the Ukraine. It merely said the two leaders wold discuss ‘global issues of mutual interest.’  

Biden and Modi last spoke in March. The president recently said that only India among the Quad countries was ‘somewhat shaky’ in acting against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

India alone of the four Quad nations – the others are United States, Japan and Australia – it has not imposed sanctions on Russia. 

India also isn’t alone in buying Russian energy. Several European allies – such as Germany – have continued to do so despite public pressure to end the purchases.. 

Daleep Singh, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economics, who visited India recently, said the United States will not set any ‘red line’ for India on its energy imports from Russia but does not want to see a ‘rapid acceleration’ in purchases. 

He also said the United States was ready to help India diversify its energy and defense supplies. 

The war in the Ukraine is reaching its seventh week

The war in the Ukraine is reaching its seventh week

The U.S. has considered sanctions on India for its recent purchase of advanced Russian air defense systems. Moscow is India’s biggest supplier of defense equipment.

Biden and Modi’s call also will precede the ‘U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial’ meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, India External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and India Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, the White House said. 

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