A bipartisan group of US Congressmen on Thursday urged India to speak out against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
Representatives Joe Wilson and Ro Khanna, a person of Indian origin, discussed the matter with India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu at a meeting.
“Grateful to join my colleague in a bipartisan call with the Ambassador of India to the US,” Wilson said in a tweet. “It is critical that world leaders condemn the atrocities being committed by Putin in Ukraine.”
Khanna also urged New Delhi to condemn Russia for targeting civilians in Ukraine. “On both sides of the aisle, friends of India are urging India to use its influence for peace,” he said.
Wilson and Khanna led the group of Congressmen in the talks with Sandhu, reported PTI.
On Wednesday too, Representatives Ted W Lieu and Tom Malinowski had urged India to condemn Russia.
In a letter signed by seven Congressmen to Sandhu, the lawmakers had said that they understand New Delhi’s relationship with Moscow, but are still disappointed by the Indian government’s decision to abstain from the United Nations General Assembly’s March 2 vote condemning Russia.
“We are disappointed that India has taken this approach in response to Russia’s actions,” the letter said. “We understand that India walks a difficult middle ground, but Russia’s actions have no place in 21st century.”
While India has called for ending the violence, it has abstained from voting thrice against Russia at the United Nations so far.
In a statement issued on March 15, Anil Bera, the chairperson of US House of Representatives’ subcommittee for the Asian region and non-proliferation issues, had also said he is disappointed that India abstained on a series of UN votes condemning the Russian invasion.
“Despite India’s long history defending its own border from outside aggression, New Delhi has chosen to remain silent on Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of a free and sovereign country,” the statement said.
He also said that it was “even worse” that India was looking to bypass international sanctions and buy oil from Russia at a discount.
“If reports are accurate and India makes this decision to buy Russian oil at a discounted price, New Delhi would be choosing to side with Vladimir Putin at a pivotal moment in history when countries across the world are united in support of the Ukrainian people and against Russia’s deadly invasion,” Bera had said.
India is currently exploring options to buy Russian crude oil, authorities had said on Tuesday. Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri had said the government was holding conversations “at the appropriate level of the Russian Federation” regarding the purchase.
Russia is the world’s largest exporter of crude and fuels and with numerous buyers boycotting the country, it has raised fears of supply disruption.
Higher costs are detrimental to India as it imports 85% of its crude oil. Government data showed that India only buys 3% of the oil supplies from Russia. But, unidentified officials told Reuters that that the Centre can increase the import as Russia was offering oil and other commodities at a heavy discount.
The US had stated that if India takes up Russia’s offer to buy crude oil at a discount, then it would not be a violation of American sanctions. However, the White House added that India’s backing of Russian leadership was akin to supporting the invasion of Ukraine, “that obviously is having a devastating impact”.
Meanwhile, reports said that the Reserve Bank of India is holding preliminary consultations on a rupee-rouble arrangement for trade with Russia. The arrangement will enable exports from Russia to continue.
The central bank is attempting to assess which banks would be able to provide such an arrangement.