New Delhi: Even as the United States made a rare statement that it was monitoring human rights in India, Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar attempted to fob off pressure on Russian oil buys by claiming that India’s total purchases were less than what Europe was buying in one afternoon.
“If you are looking at energy purchases from Russia, I would suggest that your attention should be focused on Europe, which probably we do buy some energy which is necessary for our energy security (sic). But I suspect, looking at the figures, probably our total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon. So you might want to think about that,” Jaishankar said in answer to a question during the joint media briefing after the India-US ‘two plus two’ ministerial meeting in Washington.
Ahead of the ‘two plus two’ meeting, US President Joe Biden had a virtual interaction with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The US president had conveyed that increasing the purchase of Russian oil would not be in India’s interest – a message that US secretary of state Anthony Blinken reinforced during the media interaction.
India has repeatedly argued that the purchase of Russian crude should not be “politicised”, especially when Europe is still buying energy from Moscow.
During a public event with visiting UK foreign secretary Liz Truss, Jaishankar complained about a “campaign” against India.
At that time, Truss had pointed out that European countries had already started to adopt policies to end that dependence.
“We are reducing and eliminating our dependence on Russian oil and gas. That takes time. That is also true for other countries and the important thing for me is that the G7 has set a timetable to end that dependency and sent a strong signal in the market,” Truss said. “There have been some pretty remarkable changes. Germany has changed its entire energy and defence policy as a result of the invasion of Ukraine. We need to keep doing that,” she added.
Meanwhile, Blinken, in his opening remarks, made an unexpected reference to India’s human rights records.
“We also share a commitment to our democratic values, such as protecting human rights. We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values, and to that end, we’re monitoring some recent concerning developments in India, including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police, and prison officials,” he said.
Blinken did not elaborate. Singh and Jaishankar, who spoke after Blinken at the briefing, did not comment on the human rights issue.
The US secretary of state’s remarks came days after US representative Ilhan Omar questioned the alleged reluctance of the US government to criticise Modi’s government on human rights.
In the joint statement issued after the meeting, India and the US have asked Pakistan to take “immediate, sustained, and irreversible action” to ensure that no territory under its control is used for terrorist attacks and called for the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attack and Pathankot attack to be brought to justice.
The ministers committed to the continued exchange of information about sanctions and designations against terror groups and individuals, countering violent radicalism, use of the internet for terrorist purposes, and cross-border movement of terrorists.
They also emphasised the importance of upholding international standards on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism by all countries, consistent with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations.
Pakistan has been on the grey list of the Paris-based FATF since June 2018 for failing to check money laundering, leading to terror financing, and was given a plan of action to complete it by October 2019.
Since then, the country has continued to be on that list due to its failure to comply with the FATF mandates.
India and the US strongly condemned any use of terrorist proxies and cross-border terrorism in all its forms. They called for the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks to be brought to justice.
“They called for concerted action against all terrorist groups, including groups proscribed by the UNSC 1267 Sanctions Committee, such as al-Qaeda, ISIS/Daesh, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and Hizb ul Mujahideen,” the joint statement said.
India and the US have also signed a bilateral space situational awareness arrangement on the sidelines of the India-US 2+2 ministerial meeting.
“I’m pleased to announce that just a few moments ago, we signed a bilateral space situational awareness arrangement, and this will support greater information sharing and cooperation in space,” US defence secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters.
“We’re also deepening our cooperation in cyberspace, including through training and exercises later this year. And we’re expanding our information sharing partnership across all warfighting domains,” he said.
The two countries, he said, have important commitments today that will drive technological innovation and cooperation in emerging defence domains, including space and cyberspace. “For example, we’re committed to launching new defence space exchanges later this year between our Space Command and India’s Defence Space Agency,” he said.
Austin noted that the two countries recently concluded an agreement to work together on air-launched unmanned aerial vehicles through our Defence Technology and Trade Initiative. “And today, we agreed to launch new supply chain cooperation measures that will let us more swiftly support each other’s priority defence requirements,” he said.
Observing that China is seeking to refashion the region and the international system more broadly in ways that serve its interests, Austin said the two countries had identified new opportunities to extend their militaries’ operational reach and coordinate more closely together across the expanse of the Indo-Pacific.
Jaishankar stated that challenges in the Indo-Pacific were a particular focus of the discussions during the bilateral meeting.
“We appreciate the attention and energy devoted by the United States to the Quad. Its elevation and intensification in the last year benefits the entire Indo-Pacific,” he said. “Indeed, the Quad has emerged as a powerful force of global good,” he added.
Next month, Japan will host an in-person meeting of Quad leaders in Tokyo on May 24.
(With agency inputs)