US, Australia slam India over Russia talks

The US and Australia criticized India for considering a Russian proposal that would undermine sanctions imposed by America and its allies, showing a deepening rift between the emerging security partners as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov traveled to Delhi for talks.

“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. She called reports of the arrangement “deeply disappointing,” while adding that she hadn’t seen details.

Dan Tehan, Australia’s trade minister who also spoke at the briefing, said it was important for democracies to work together “to keep the rules-based approach that we’ve had since the Second World War.”

The comments reflect growing unease with India among fellow members of the Quad, a group of democracies seeking to counter China’s assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region that also includes the US, Australia and Japan. India is the world’s largest buyer of Russian weapons, and has also sought to buy cheap oil as fuel prices surge.

India operates more than 250 Su-30 MKi Russian-made fighter jets, seven Kilo-class submarines, and more than 1,200 Russian-made T-90 tanks. In the pipeline are weapon systems worth about $10 billion, including a nuclear submarine to be leased to India and S-400 air defense system batteries

While India has supported calls for a ceasefire and a diplomatic solution, it abstained at the United Nations on votes for draft resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion that was ultimately vetoed by Moscow.

India’s middle-ground position on the war has left to a raft of diplomacy in the past few weeks, with China’s foreign minister visiting for the first time since 2019 and now Lavrov seeking to shore up support. At the same time, the US and its allies are also stepping up engagement in a bid to influence Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

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