US President Joe Biden asks Indian PM Narendra Modi not to increase use of Russian oil

US President Joe Biden asked India’s Narendra Modi on Monday not to accelerate the buying of Russian oil as the US and other nations try to cut off Moscow’s energy income following the invasion of Ukraine.

The Indian Prime Minister made no public commitment to refrain from Russian oil, a source of tension with the US.

Meeting by video call, Mr Biden told Mr Modi that the US could help India diversify its energy sources, according to press secretary Jen Psaki.

Even though India receives little of its oil from Russia, it stepped up recently with a major purchase as other democracies are trying to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin.

While the two nations ended the meeting with Mr Biden saying they committed to strengthening their relationship, White House officials could not say if India stood with them in full condemning Mr Putin, saying the choice ultimately rested with Mr Modi’s government.

The two leaders will meet in person May 24 in Tokyo for a summit of the Quad, a coalition that also includes Australia and Japan.

Vladimir Putin grinning while shaking hands with Narendra Modi
India continues to buy Russian energy supplies and in March Indian Oil Corp secured 3 million barrels of Russian crude.(Reuters: Adnan Abidi)

India’s neutral stance in the war has raised concerns in Washington and earned praise from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who lauded India this month for judging “the situation in its entirety, not just in a one-sided way.”

Mr Biden opened the video conversation by emphasizing the defense partnership between the two countries and by saying the US and India were going to “continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war” on food and other commodities.

“The root of our partnership is a deep connection between our people, family ties, friendship and shared values,” the US President said.

India to make its own decision

Mr Modi on Monday called the situation in Ukraine “very worrying,” and he noted that an Indian student lost his life during the war.

He said he had spoken with Mr Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, appealing to both of them for peace.

India has condemned the killings uncovered in the city of Bucha and has called for an independent investigation.

A senior US official described the Biden-Modi exchange as warm and productive, although the official stressed that India would make its own decisions on how to respond to Mr Putin.

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