White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said there will be “deliverables” on the defense cooperation front when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Washington later this week, but declined to provide details.
Kirby acknowledged at a briefing on June 20 that India would be pressed regarding its Russian oil and arms purchases during the state visit, adding that Ukraine is “without question” going to be a topic of discussion.
However, he emphasized that the United States would make Indian sovereignty a priority in the discussions, noting that India “should and must speak for itself” on where it stands.
Kirby suggested the meeting would focus more on U.S.-Indian ties than on India’s relationship with Russia.
“The state visit is not about Russia. What we’re trying to do…is improve the bilateral relationship on its own,” he said.
India has not condemned Russia's war in Ukraine and has frustrated Western countries by increasing its imports of Russian oil and defense equipment.
However, Kirby called India “a terrific contributor” to humanitarian aid to Ukraine so far.
“Through statements and through votes at the UN, India has made it clear its deep concern about what Russia is doing inside Ukraine,” Kirby said.
Additionally, he praised India’s adherence to the price cap on Russian oil, which he said “has proven effective” in both keeping the supply stable while simultaneously limiting revenues flowing to the Russian state. Kirby said he hopes India will continue to buy within the price cap to limit Moscow’s war funds.
Modi was upbeat as he left for the trip, his fifth to the United States since he became prime minister in 2014 but the first with the full status of a state visit.
“We seek to deepen India-USA ties in key sectors like trade, commerce, innovation, technology and other such areas,” Modi said on Twitter on June 20.
After arriving in New York City on the first stop of his visit, he posted a link to an interview he did with The Wall Street Journal in which he said that ties between New Delhi and Washington are stronger and deeper than ever. He also responded to the criticism of India’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
"I don't think this type of perception is widespread in the U.S.," he said in the interview. "I think India’s position is well known and well understood in the entire world. The world has full confidence that India’s top-most priority is peace."
Kirby also said he would welcome any role India wanted to play in building peace in Ukraine, but he would not be able to give any details until after the discussions take place.
Modi is scheduled on June 22 to address a joint meeting of the House and Senate -- one of the highest honors Washington affords to foreign dignitaries -- followed by a state dinner.
Kirby said that he expects additional discussions to be centered around global health, emerging technologies, and climate change. President Joe Biden has made clear he sees U.S. ties to India as a defining relationship that will jointly address some of the most difficult global challenges and China’s growing power in the Indo-Pacific.
The president was reminded by members of Congress as Modi arrived to raise human rights issues.
Seventy-five Democratic members of Congress -- 18 senators and 57 members of the House of Representatives -- said in a letter to Biden that they "stand in support of the important principles that should be a core part of American foreign policy."
They asked the president to "discuss the full range of issues important to a successful, strong, and long-term relationship between our two great countries."
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