US President Biden lauds US-led alliance, including NATO, the European Union and key Asian partners, for its united front against Moscow over its offensive in Ukraine, but complains of India's shaky reaction.

India historically has had close ties with Russia and abstained in three recent votes at the UN, over Moscow's attack of Ukraine.
India historically has had close ties with Russia and abstained in three recent votes at the UN, over Moscow's attack of Ukraine. (AFP Archive)

US President Joe Biden has said that India was an exception among Washington's allies with its "shaky" response to Russia's offensive against Ukraine.

Biden on Monday lauded the US-led alliance, including NATO, the European Union and key Asian partners, for its united front against President Vladimir Putin.

"The Quad is, with the possible exception of India being somewhat shaky on some of this, but Japan has been extremely strong –– so has Australia –– in terms of dealing with Putin's aggression."

This includes unprecedented sanctions aimed at crippling Russia's currency, international trade and access to high-tech goods.

However, unlike fellow members of the Quad group –– Australia, Japan and the United States –– India continues to purchase Russian oil and has refused to join votes condemning Moscow at the United Nations.

Addressing a meeting of US business leaders in Washington, Biden said there had been "a united front throughout NATO and in the Pacific."

Biden said that Putin was "counting on being able to split NATO" and instead, "NATO has never been stronger, more united, in its entire history than it is today."

READ MORE: India in bind over Russian arms amid standoff with China, Pakistan

Relying heavily on Russia's oil

Indian oil refiners have reportedly continued to purchase discounted Russian oil, even as the West seeks to isolate Moscow.

An Indian government official said last week that the world's third-biggest consumer of crude relies on imports for almost 85 percent of its needs, with Russia supplying a "marginal" less than one percent of this.

But "the jump in oil prices after the Ukraine conflict has now added to our challenges... India has to keep focusing on competitive energy sources," the official added.

Australia understands India's stance on Russia's offensive in Ukraine, India's foreign secretary told reporters on Monday following a virtual summit between the prime ministers of Australia and India.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Saturday told Indian PM Narendra Modi in New Delhi that Russia's assault had shaken the "foundation of international order" and required a clear response.

READ MORE: India in talks to buy cheap Russian oil as West shuns Moscow

USSR veto resolutions against India

Experts say up to 60 percent of Indian defence equipment comes from Russia, and New Delhi finds itself in a bind at a time when it is facing a two-year-old standoff with China in eastern Ladakh over a territorial dispute, with tens of thousands of soldiers within shooting distance. Twenty Indian soldiers and four Chinese soldiers died in a clash in 2020.

"The nightmare scenario for India would be if the US comes to the conclusion that it confronts a greater threat from Russia and that this justifies a strategic accommodation with China. In blunt terms, concede Chinese dominance in Asia while safeguarding its European flank," Shyam Saran, India's former foreign secretary, wrote in a recent blog post.

New Delhi, which historically has had close ties with Moscow, called for an end to the violence in Ukraine but has stopped short of condemning Russia's assault, abstaining in three votes at the United Nations.

On six occasions, then USSR used its veto power to block UN resolutions against India, some of them on Kashmir dispute and Goa.

President Biden has spoken about unresolved differences with India after the country abstained from voting on United Nations resolutions against Russian aggression in Ukraine. 

Modi has so far avoided voting against Russia or criticising Putin for Ukraine military offensive.

As the Ukraine crisis deepens, the challenge for India is how to navigate international sanctions against Russia.

The Russian S-400 missile system deal with Moscow has put India at risk of US sanctions after Washington asked its partners to avoid purchasing Russian military equipment. The S-400 is a sophisticated surface-to-air defence system and is expected to give India strategic deterrence against rivals China and Pakistan.

READ MORE: India's Modi under mounting pressure to condemn Russia over Ukraine

Source: AFP