Exclusive | Russia won’t affect India-US ties: Rajnath Singh
The US is aware that India and Russia are “natural allies” and enjoy stable ties - but, at the same time, India will not allow its relationship with a third country to adversely affect US “core national interests”, defence minister Rajnath Singh has said.
In an interview with Hindustan Times on Monday night in Washington, when asked about the discomfort about India’s position after the Ukraine crisis in the US, Singh said, “I don’t think Russia will affect India-US ties. The US knows that India and Russia are natural allies of each other and that our relations are very stable. India will also be very careful to ensure that US core national interests are not affected adversely due to our relations with another country in the world.”
Singh also spoke about the Indo-Pacific, the impact of the Ukraine crisis on India’s national security, and India-US defence cooperation.
His comments came at the end of a long day where he had a bilateral engagement with his counterpart, secretary of defence Lloyd J Austin, attended the virtual conversation between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, participated in the 2+2 dialogue ministerial along with external affairs minister S Jaishankar, addressed a press conference, and then attended a dinner hosted by secretary of state Antony J Blinken.
At a time when there has been speculation about whether Russia would be able to meet its commitments to India in terms of defence spare parts and supplies, Singh ruled out any impact of the conflict in Ukraine on India’s national security preparedness. “I don’t agree there will be any problems for our national security. India is not a weak country. India has the strength to ensure that if a problem arises, it can deal with it. But as far as Russia and Ukraine are concerned, we do want peace to be established.”
Responding to a question on whether India was considering diversifying its defence acquisitions further in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Singh said, “Wait and watch.”
While Singh did not directly respond to Austin’s repeated references - at the bilateral meeting, during the opening of the 2+2 dialogue and then at the press appearance - to China’s aggression and attempts to refashion the region, the defence minister said that both India and the US share a common interest in free and open Indo-Pacific. “There is no difference of opinion between the US and India on this issue, and there will be full cooperation on it.”
During his meetings and public remarks, Singh strongly advocated defence co-manufacturing and co-production and invited American companies and equipment manufacturers to “make in India, make for the world” - as a part of India’s indigenisation push.
When asked about issue of pricing of US weapon systems that has reportedly inhibited deeper India-US defence ties, Singh said, “On pricing, they have spoken about affordable pricing. But that comes into play when one has to purchase something. It is true that when someone wants to buy something, you go and buy it where it is most cheaply available.”
On technology-sharing, another issue that is understood to have limited the relationship from reaching its potential, Singh said that American companies should bring their technology and produce in India. “In general, no one transfers technology quickly. If they don’t want to transfer technology, they should come to India, use their technology to produce, prepare make in India items, and export to the rest of the world.”
Pushing back against the misconception that developing countries cause greater damage to the environment, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said India, which is home to 17% of the world population, accounts for only 5% of global carbon emissions.
Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies on Monday pledged to stand with Ukraine "for as long as it takes" by cranking up sanctions on Russia and backing security commitments for Kyiv in a post-war settlement. Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the global economic fallout such as soaring energy and food prices has dominated this year's summit of the leaders of Germany, the United States, France, Italy, Canada, Japan and Britain.
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One of the last Ukrainian defenders of Sievierodonetsk said he withdrew in a boat, bitter to be leaving after weathering a weeks-long Russian onslaught on the ruined city but happy to be alive as he and others crossed the river to higher ground. Danylo, a 24-year-old soldier who said he was among almost the last to leave and another soldier, Anton, who also left in the final days, described their pullback across the Siverskyi Donets river in interviews on Sunday.
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