Exclusive | Russia won’t affect India-US ties: Rajnath Singh

US knows India-Russia natural allies; but India won’t let ties with another country affect core US national interests
India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh (left) met with the US secretary of defence Lloyd Austin, in Pentagon on Monday. (ANI)
India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh (left) met with the US secretary of defence Lloyd Austin, in Pentagon on Monday. (ANI)
Updated on Apr 12, 2022 10:10 AM IST
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By, Washington

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.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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Monday, June 27, 2022