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U.S. and India hail Indo-Pacific cooperation at meeting of ministers

India and the U.S. emphasized cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region during ministerial level talks in Washington on Monday (April 11) as the leaders of the two countries discussed their differences over the Ukraine war during an hour-long video call.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh met at the State Department for so-called 2+2 talks.

“This is a momentous moment in global affairs,” Bliken said. “Today, we’ll discuss pressing issues, shared global challenges, including Russia’s war against Ukraine, ending the COVID 19 pandemic, the climate crisis, upholding a free, open, democratic, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” he added.

Earlier, U.S. President Joe Biden told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that buying more oil from Russia was not in India’s interest and could hamper the U.S. response to the war in Ukraine, U.S. officials said.

He told Modi India’s position in the world would not be enhanced by relying on Russian energy sources, U.S. officials said.

During a video call U.S. officials described as “warm” and “candid,” Biden and Modi both publicly expressed growing alarm at the destruction inside Ukraine, especially in Bucha, where many civilians have been killed.

Biden stopped short of making a “concrete ask” of Modi on Monday, an official said, noting India has concerns about deepening ties between Russia and China.

At the ministerial meeting, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that defense cooperation was important to keep China in check.

“The People’s Republic of China is seeking to refashion the region and the international system more broadly in ways that serve its authoritarian interests,” Austin said. “But as we operationalize our defense agreements and take our cooperation to the next level, I believe that we can sustain and strengthen a favorable balance of power in the region,” he added.

Broad talks between the world’s two largest democracies took place as the United States seeks more help from India in condemning, and applying economic pressure on, Russia for an invasion Moscow calls a “special military operation.”

The South Asian nation has tried to balance its ties with Russia and the West but unlike other members of the Quad countries – the United States, Japan and Australia – it has not imposed sanctions on Russia.

Biden recently said that only India among the Quad group of countries was “somewhat shaky” in acting against Russia.

Lured by steep discounts following Western sanctions on Russian entities, India has bought at least 13 million barrels of Russian crude oil since the invasion in late February. That compared with some 16 million barrels for the whole of last year, data compiled by Reuters shows.

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