Washington, June 21: The US supports India's rise as a great power, and this will be central to ensuring American interests in the years ahead, a senior State Department official said on Wednesday, on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's high-level talks with President Joe Biden at the White House.
Underlining that India and the US see each other as key security partners in the Indo-Pacific and partners of first resort, the official said that the bilateral relationship "is deeper and more expansive than ever." US Shocker: Pregnant Woman, Unborn Child Die After Toddler Shoots Them Accidently in Ohio.
"The US supports India's rise as a great power, and this will be central to ensuring US interests in the years ahead," said the official on condition of anonymity.
The official said that some "exciting announcements" are expected on space exploration during Prime Minister Modi's visit, besides business, education and travel cooperation. British PM Rishi Sunak Hails IndiGo-Airbus Pact As Major Win for UK Aerospace.
When asked about some of the industrial packages that might be announced after Modi-Biden talks, the official said, "I don't want to get ahead of the announcements that will be made tomorrow, but some of the technology we're discussing, I hope that you'll see tomorrow, is a real vote of confidence for this relationship and India's capacity as a defence manufacturer. What you will hear tomorrow are announcements about (co-production) of military systems."
On India's reliance on Russian arms, the official said, "In 2008 we had essentially sold nothing to India; but in 2020 that was USD 20 billion, and it's rising exponentially every year. We're not alone - many other partners are working in India, increasingly on the same terms we are - co-production and co-development. At the same time, you see cancellations of major systems from Russia because (we know) Russia cannot provide it."
The official said that India is in the process of diversifying its dependence on any (single) supplier. When asked about the Ukraine conflict and whether India can play the role of a mediator, the official said that over the last several months there has been some shift on the Indian position on the war in Ukraine.
"India has a long history of relations with Russia. They have interests with Russia that go back many, many decades. I think it's a positive thing that Modi has said that this must be settled through dialogue and diplomacy. What I think you'll also see is that, while the US and India differ on our exact policies on Russia and Ukraine, we share a belief that this must be settled through diplomacy and must end in a lasting peace according to the UN Charter and its founding principles," the official added.
Since the Ukraine conflict began in February last year, Modi spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a number of times during which he insisted that the conflict should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy.
Answering a question on India's purchase of discounted oil from Russia, the official said that there have been many times in the past that India has bought Russian crude at half the price. "If we as a global community are looking to deprive Russia of resources to fight its war in Ukraine - somebody is going to buy that oil, I'd rather it be someone buying it at very low prices," the official added.
When asked if the US was on the same page with India about now not being the time for diplomacy in the conflict, the official said, "What the Indian government has said - let me just quote what I read from the Indian government - a settlement based on diplomacy and dialogue, and based on the UN Charter and its founding principles. For me, that means territorial integrity and sovereignty. Indians might characterise that in a million ways, but that's what I hear when I hear Indians say that."
Responding to a question, the official confirmed that China will come up during the discussion. "Of course, for (India) and the US, part of thinking about our defence is how we prevent any country from having dominance over the international system. That has nuances for China but it's not only China - it's about allowing Asia to be free and open, allowing sea lanes to be free and open."
On the issue of human rights, the official said that the US has had at every level, including the highest levels, frank and constructive discussions about the issue.
"As a genuine partner and friend in India, we speak (honestly) and constructively about our differences. We have raised our human rights and religious freedom concerns regularly to senior government officials. We do this in an atmosphere of mutual respect. It's important that we support all pillars of Indian democracy - to that end, we regularly meet with civil society and journalists," the official said.
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