Biden is considering imposing sanctions on India in response to Russian military stockpiling

As part of the wide-ranging penalties the West is aiming to inflict on Russian over its invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration is considering imposing sanctions on India for its stockpile of and reliance on Russian military equipment.

In a hearing on Thursday, Donald Lu, the assistant secretary of State for South Asian affairs, said the administration is weighing the threat that India’s traditionally close military alliance with Russia poses to US security.

It’s a matter we’re looking at very closely” Lu added. “The administration is looking at the broader question of whether to impose CAATSA measures or to waive those sanctions.”

The Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which was passed in 2017 in response to Russian election meddling in the United States, provides the authority to penalize transactions with Russian defense and intelligence sectors.

The bill provides presidential waiver authority, which was used for Turkey, a NATO partner, until December 2020, when the Trump administration levied sanctions for Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S400 missile defense system under the law.

India was designated as a “Major Defense Partner” by the United States in 2016, a unique classification that elevates defense trade and technology. Since 2008, defense contracts between the US and India are believed to have totaled $20 billion.

India is also a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which includes the US, Japan, and Australia and focuses on combating China’s Indo-Pacific ambitions.

According to the White House, President Biden conducted a video conversation with Quad leaders on Thursday to “address the war against Ukraine and its ramifications for the Indo-Pacific.”

The administration is “trying to understand whether defense technology that we are providing with India today can be effectively safeguarded given India’s past relationship with Russia and its defense sales” Lu said to legislators.

“It is vital that the United States be able to assure itself that any defense technology we exchange is adequately protected with any partner” he said.

In the months leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Lu said the administration had been in a “pitched conflict” with Indian authorities.

President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and other State Department officials asked New Delhi to “take a clearer posture, one opposed to Russia’s actions.”

India’s abstention at the United Nations and commitment to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine, according to the secretary, are promising steps in a shift in India’s public position, and he expects an even greater shift in the wake of outrage over the death of an Indian student in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, by Russian bombing in recent days.

“I have had several conversations with Indian officials in the last 24 hours,” Lu said. “What we can see, already, very quickly is that action has begun to turn public opinion in India against a country that they perceived as a partner, undeniably, that partner has killed a young person who was an innocent victim in Ukraine.”

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