The U.S. and Australia criticized India for considering Russia’s proposal that would undermine sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies, pointing to a deepening split between emerging security partners as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov traveled to Delhi for talks.
“Now is the time to stand on the right side of history, and to stand with the United States and dozens of other countries, defending freedom, democracy and sovereignty with the people of Ukraine, and not funding and fueling and helping President Putin’s war,” the Commerce Secretary said. Gina Raimondo told reporters in Washington on Wednesday. He called the report on the arrangement “extremely disappointing,” adding that he did not see the details.
And Tehan, Australia’s trade minister who also spoke at the briefing, said it was important for democracies to work together “to maintain the rules -based approach we have had since the second world war.”
The comments reflect growing discontent with India among fellow Quad members, a group of democracies that seek to oppose China’s assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region that also includes the US, Australia and Japan. India is the largest buyer of Russian arms in the world, and has also sought to buy cheap oil when fuel prices have soared.
While India has supported calls for a ceasefire and diplomatic settlement, it is neutral at the United Nations on a vote for a draft resolution condemning Russian aggression that was eventually vetoed by Moscow. Bloomberg reported Wednesday that India is considering plans to make rupee-ruble-denominated payments using an alternative to SWIFT after the U.S. and the European Union cut off seven Russian banks from using Belgian-based cross-border payment system operators.
Russia’s plan involves rupee-ruble-denominated payments using the country’s SPFS messaging system and central bank officials from Moscow are likely to visit next week to discuss the details. No final decision has been taken.
India’s central position in the war has led to diplomacy in recent weeks, with China’s foreign minister visiting for the first time since 2019 and now Lavrov is working to increase support. At the same time, the US and its allies are also stepping up involvement in efforts to influence Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Delhi earlier this month, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also held a video summit with Modi. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with his counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, to discuss “the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Ukraine” among other issues.
During Lavrov’s visit, India also hosted US Deputy National Security Adviser for the International Economy Daleep Singh and UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. His office said he “will demonstrate the importance of all countries reducing strategic dependence on Russia in this time of growing global insecurity.”
India has dismissed U.S. concerns by stating that it needs Russian weapons to counter China, especially after the border battle in 2020, and the alternative is too expensive. Strategic relations between India and Russia date back to the Cold War and remain strong, although Modi has shifted the country more toward U.S. orbit in recent years.