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Transforming India-US ties will not occur ‘overnight,’ may take years, US state department

Indian purchases of Russian oil don’t break sanctions but this is 'not the time for business as usual' with Moscow: US official

Paran Balakrishnan Published 11.11.22, 11:16 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. Shutterstock

The transformation of India-US relations could take years and will be a task for the current administration “and for administrations to come,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price has said.

Price made it clear that India would not face sanctions for buying oil from Russia. “The fact that India continues to seek oil and other forms of energy from Russia. That is not something that runs afoul of the sanctions that have been imposed,” he said.


The official’s comments came after foreign minister S. Jaishankar said on a trip to Moscow that India will keep buying Russian oil as it’s economically “advantageous” and that Russia is a “time-tested partner.”

Briefing correspondents, Price said the US understood that India had deep ties with Russia and that it was, “a relationship that developed and was cemented over the course of decades.”

He noted that India-Russia relations “really came into being during the Cold War at a time when the United States was not in a position to be an economic partner, a security partner, a military partner to India.”

Price pointed out that there’s been a dramatic turnaround during the last 25 years and that the US has gradually built up its relationship with India and is attempting to “deepen our partnership with India in every sector.

But he added that developing the relationship would take time. “This is a transition we have always been clear-eyed will not take place overnight, over the course of many months or even over the course of many years.”

Importantly, he added that both Democrat and Republican governments had focused on building the partnership with India.

“It is a bipartisan legacy that this country has achieved over the past quarter century. President George W. Bush’s administration was really the first to put this into effect.”

Price was briefing correspondents in the wake of Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra’s meetings in Washington with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, amongst others.

Almost simultaneously, Jaishankar has been holding high-level talks with Russian leaders in Moscow. India could also be playing a behind-the-scenes role to bring the US and Russia together for talks on the Ukraine war.

India has been walking a delicate tightrope between the US and Russia in recent months since February when the war began and has received flak from the European governments and the Western press for buying large quantities of Russian oil.

In October, India bought a huge 900,000 barrels per day (BPD) of Russian crude. It also bought a record 160,000 BPD of fuel oil which is used as bunkering oil for ships and also for home heating. India now is the biggest buyer globally of Russian crude.

During his briefing, Price pointed out that India and the US have been in touch constantly since the war started.

“We’ve had a number of high-level engagements with our Indian counterparts. Just yesterday Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman had a wide-ranging discussion with Foreign Secretary Kwatra.” He added that earlier Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar had met in the State Department.

“The messages we heard from Foreign Minister Jaishankar were not dissimilar in some ways from what we heard from Prime Minister Modi at the UN when he made it very clear this is not an era of war,” Price said. He added that it’s “especially important that the Russians hear that message from countries like India that are neighbours who have economic, diplomatic social ties.”

The spokesman said the US understood that “India is a large country, a vast country with a large economy that has many needs.” However, he sounded a warning note, saying: “We have also been clear that this is not the time for business as usual with Russia.”

He made it clear the US feels, “it is incumbent on countries around the world to do what they can to lessen those economic ties with Russia. That’s something that’s in the collective interest but it is also in the bilateral interest of countries around the world.”

He said countries should in the course of time, “wean their dependence on Russian energy.” He added that, “Russia is not a reliable source of energy and there have been a number of countries that have learnt this the hard way,” referring to European nations.

The US aims to impose price caps on purchases of Russian oil starting in December. Currently, price caps are slated to come into effect on contracts signed before December 5th and which are delivered by January 19. But it may push back the start of the plan because there are worries that oil prices could shoot through the roof if Russian oil goes off the market globally.

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