Agree with PM Modi, not the era of war: US Secretary of State Blinken
In his opening remarks, Blinken referred to PM Modi’s remarks to Putin in Samarkand and Jaishankar’s speeches at the UN Security Council and General Assembly, where India had said it was on the side of peace and the UN charter and said the US, too, was on the same side
Washington: United States (US) Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he entirely agreed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks to Russian president Vladimir Putin that this was not the era of wars, in sign of greater American appreciation for the Indian position on Ukraine.
Blinken was speaking to reporters after his meeting with external affairs minister S Jaishankar at the State Department on Tuesday.
For his part, Jaishankar reiterated India’s position on Ukraine, offered previously unknown details about India’s role in helping with the grain shipment negotiations between Russia and Ukraine and Delhi’s current discussions on specific issues regarding the conflict between different actors, and made it clear that India’s energy security came first when it came to the proposal of a price cap.
Both ministers hailed the growing India-US partnership. Jaishankar said that it had been a “very positive and encouraging experience” working with the US to shape the direction of the world while Blinken called US-India ties one of the most consequential partnerships in the world in addressing every vital global challenge, and said he was gratified that the two sides “talked about everything”.
In his opening remarks, Blinken referred to PM Modi’s remarks to Putin in Samarkand and Jaishankar’s speeches at the UN Security Council and General Assembly, where India had said it was on the side of peace and the UN charter and said the US, too, was on the same side.
In response to a question on India’s role in Ukraine, he said, “I really want to emphasise what PM Modi said because I think he captured as well as anyone I have heard fundamentally what this moment is about. He said this is not an era, this is not a time for war. We could not agree more.”
He then recalled how the US saw the threat of Russian aggression mounting last year, it had tried to stop it, yet Putin went ahead and now Ukraine and the world was suffering the consequences. Blinken said that it was in everyone’s interest to see Russia end its aggression. “If Russia chose to stop fighting, war ends. But if Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends.” Claiming that at the moment, there was no sign that Putin was willing to engage in meaningful diplomacy, Blinken returned to India and said, “I think it is very important that voices as consequential as India’s make themselves heard and that’s why I thought the Prime Minister’s comments were so significant, as well as his clear support to the UN charter.”
Jaishankar reiterated India’s stance in favour of peace and dialogue and highlighted the consequences of the conflict for the global south in terms of food, energy and fertiliser security and trade disruptions.
When asked about Indian efforts to end the war, “We have taken a position privately, publicly, confidentially and consistently that this conflict isn’t in anyone’s interest…In the past, wherever we have been able to contribute something, we have been open to it.”
The minister said that he was in touch with many of his colleagues, both along G-20 countries and UNSC members and beyond. He said, “During the grain shipment discussions in the Black Sea, we were approached to weigh in with Russia at a very delicate moment in the negotiations which we did.” Jaishankar added that he had met the Ukrainian Prime Minister who mentioned some specific issues “where he thought we could be of some use”; he also met, on a different set of issues, with the UN Secretary General who too had been active on specific issues pertaining to the conflict to see what could be resolved and mitigate even in the current circumstances. The minister said it would not be appropriate for him to go into more specifics than that.
But there remained clear divergences in some respects too between the two sides. As the US, along with other G7 countries, makes a push to impose price caps on Russian oil, Jaishankar made it clear that the energy markets were under great stress, and countries in the global south had found it difficult to compete for limited energy not just in terms of costs but also availability.
While saying that he and Blinken had discussed the issue of price caps briefly, and technical discussions were on between the two sides, Jaishankar said, “Our concern is that the energy markets already under stress must soften up. We will judge any situation with how it affects us and other countries in the global south.” To a subsequent question on price caps, “We have concerns over the price of oil. We are a $2000 per capita economy. The price of oil is breaking our back. That is our big concern.”