BY YASHWANT RAJ
Washington– A US lawmaker of a key Congressional committee on the increasingly contentious relationship with China, called on India to choose “team America” over Russia and China.
Jake Auchincloss, a two-term Democrat from Massachusetts, said on Wednesday that he worries that India could become instead an “aggravating third factor” if it did not actually join up with Russia and China.
He is a member of the US House of Representatives’ Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the US and the Chinese Communist Party, which has the support and buy-in from both Republicans, who control the House, and Democrats, who have the White House and the Senate.
Auchincloss’s remarks reflect growing “disappointment” — and he did use that word — with India’s position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and in fact echoes sentiments expressed by other policymakers and lawmakers.
Ro Khanna, one of four Indian-descent members of the US House of Representatives, was among the first to publicly call for India to choose between the US and Russia in 2022.
Criticism of India’s stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine is hinged to two main factors. One, India’s refusal to condemn the invasion in unequivocal terms. And, two, continued Indian purchases of Russian oil and refusal to get in line with US-led Western boycott and sanctions.
These apparent failings on India’s part are viewed in the context of growing proximity between Russia and China, with Russia increasingly seen as the “junior partner”.
Concessions to Russia, therefore, are seen as concessions to its partnership with China, both of whom have been declared adversaries by the US.
“Right now they’re importing huge amounts of Russian oil,” Auchincloss said of India’s oil purchases.
“It’s been a huge disappointment that they’ve undermined the price cap sanctions.”
The US-led West does not see these purchases as purely opportunistic trade calls as India has tried to portray them — that a net importer of crude oil is buying up massive quantities of discounted Russian crude. They are, instead, a reflection of India’s historical suspicion of the West that shaped its foreign policy of non-alignment for decades in the 20th century.
“They’ve been historically non aligned,” Auchincloss said.
“We want them plugged into the US operating system, not the CCPs operating system.”
“They have every reason to be, as a democracy, fighting out in the Himalayas with the Chinese, they shouldn’t be on “team America”,” he added.
The lawmaker was on a panel discussion at Semafor news organisations’s inaugural World Economic Summit, held this time of the year to coincide with the World Bank Group’s annual spring meetings.
Asked if he was worried India won’t be on “team America”, the lawmaker said, “I’m worried that they won’t be there. At the very least they’ll be an aggravating third party factor. So we got to work in India.”
The Biden administration has been quietly — not always — pressing the Modi government to move closer to the western position on Russia, abandoning its historic ties with the successor of the Soviet Union, which was a treaty ally.
US policymakers are cognisant, at the same time, of India’s long-time dependence on Russia for military hardware — everything from tanks to missiles to fighter jets to missile defence systems. They should be aware also, New Delhi hopes, of Russia’s unstinting support for India in the UN Security Council on many issues but chiefly Kashmir. (IANS)