US denies ‘warning’ India on Russian oil purchases

The White House has denied that US Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh delivered a warning to India during his visit to New Delhi and characterised his interactions there as a “constructive conversation”.

“I wouldn’t characterise it as a warning, nor did we at the time,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday when a reporter asserted that Singh had “delivered this warning to India to not raise purchases of Russian oil”.

“He went and had a constructive conversation and made clear that while it’s the decision of each individual country, including India, to determine whether they’re going to import Russian oil,” Psaki said.

“President (Joe) Biden believes our partnership with India is one of the most important relationships we have in the world.”

She reiterated clarifications that sanctions do not apply to oil purchases and about the size of oil purchases by India for a section of the US media that raises the imposition of sanctions against India while not bringing it up for European nations that buy far more energy resources from Russia.

“It is only 1 to 2 per cent of their imports. About 10 per cent of their imports is from the US.”

However, “he conveyed, of course, they should abide by sanctions, which are not related to that decision (on oil purchases) but also, we would be here to help them diversify and move towards even reducing further beyond the 1 to 2 per cent”, Psaki said.

Singh’s statement in New Delhi late last month that “there are consequences to countries that actively attempt to circumvent or backfill the sanctions” spawned headlines about “warning” and “threat” to India based on interpretations by some media.

But he also said during the same conversation with reporters: “I come here in a spirit of friendship to explain the mechanisms of our sanctions, the importance of joining us, to express a shared resolve and to advance shared interests.”

Singh, who is in charge of economic affairs in the US National Security Council, is Biden’s point person on sanctions imposed by the US on Russia.

The US has avoided imposing sanctions on energy purchases to accommodate its European allies who rely heavily on Russia.

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in and followed @arulouis)

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