This is not good.
Biden’s administration’s relationship with India is taking strain as the latter tries to convince New Delhi to join its campaign to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, India has abstained from voting against Russia on three occasions.
The three U.N. resolutions include the 15-member Security Council, the 193-member general assembly, and the latest being the United Nations Human Rights Council. The UNHRC vote to establish an independent international commission of inquiry was adopted despite 13 abstentions by countries including China, Venezuela, and Pakistan.
Last week, administration officials revealed they had been in a “pitched battle” with India, the world’s largest democracy, in an effort to convince them to join the U.S., European Union, and other democratic nations in their bid to beat back Russia’s authoritarian goals.
In the last two decades, the U.S. and India have deepened their relationships, but India has been relying on Moscow’s military assistance for generations, causing the country to view Russia as a critical ally in India’s efforts to prevent China’s endeavors to dominate the territory.
India’s closeness with Russia may change following Moscow’s atrocities with Ukraine that led to the death of an Indian student in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
Last week, the assistant secretary of State for South Asian affairs, Donald Lu told lawmakers that the administration was “working every day to make sure that we are trying to close the gap between where we are and where our Indian partners are.”
Adding that if Russia wasn’t brought to book, China could become bolder in its attempts to dominate the region, saying that “part of the answer here is that India understands, what’s happening in Ukraine will affect China’s behavior.”
While trying to persuade India to join its efforts, the U.S. has changed tactics a few times. Last month, President Joe Biden discussed his frustrations with India, saying to reporters that the U.S. and India had not “resolved” their alignment on Russia.
However, it seems as though the administration has abandoned a strong-arm approach, with State Department reportedly recalling a strongly worded cable to U.S. diplomats that would have seen the diplomats admonish Indian officials, branding them a part of Russia’s camp.
The statements referred to India repeatedly choosing to maintain a neutral stance in the U.N. and calling for dialogue in the Russia-Ukraine conflict rather than reprimanding its ally.
According to Tanvi Madan, a senior fellow in the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, this change of stance points to the U.S. acknowledging that being heavy-handed with India would be “counterproductive and unhelpful.”
He added that the U.S. realized the approach would “complicate U.S.-India ties in certain ways,” possibly leading to Russia’s conflict in Ukraine serving as a “veto” on U.S.-India relations.