United States Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh, who is instrumental in forming American sanctions against Russia, reached India on Thursday ahead of the 2+2 dialogue between both the countries on economic and strategic partnerships next month.
Singhâ€™s visit comes at a time when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be in India for two days starting Thursday, his first trip to the country since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine last month.
In an exclusive interview with News18, Singh said the US sanctions on Russia are meant to degrade and disable the countryâ€™s military capability in Ukraine, and to diminish its defensive assistance to other countries. â€œWe want to be upfront with India about that and to be a partner as it accelerates diversification, we can do that,â€ Singh said.
On security matters, he said China and Russia have declared a non-limits partnership, and the more â€œjunior partner Russia becomes of China, the more leverage China gains over Russia.â€
If that happens, it would be â€œless favourableâ€ for Indiaâ€™s strategic posture, he added. â€œDoes anyone think if China breach the line of control, would Russia come to Indiaâ€™s defence? I donâ€™t,â€ he pointed out.
Q: What message are you communicating to the Indian side, especially with regards to sanctions with Russia as some of the sanctions can have a fallout for a country like India as well? After all, India is continuing dealing with Russia in oil and defense sector.
A: I am coming here in the spirit of friendship and respect, and true friends have honest and direct dialogue even about difficult subjects, and the truth is core principles are at stake. Core principles are underpinning peace and security all over the world. (Vladimir) Putin is dropping bombs on maternity hospitals, orphanages, opera house, schools. This is violation of international laws and as I mentioned core principles. You can re-draw borders by force, you cannot subjugate the will of free people. Countries have the right to set their course and choose their own destiny. India doesnâ€™t need me or anybody else to explain why those principles are sacred. The purpose of imposing these sanctions on Russia is to help Ukraine fight for its freedom. This is the purpose of all our efforts. The reality is defending freedom never costs less. It impacts energy and food prices, refugees and trade. But the root cause of these consequences is Putinâ€™s needless war of choice. Dictators have to pay a price for their aggression. Otherwise, there will be more chaos in the world. And the cost of the threats to America, India and to democracies all over the world continues to rise. So that is what is at stake here. If we did nothing, and there was unchecked aggression in response to the largest land invasion since World War-II, think of the chilling effect it would cause, the uncertainties, the signal it would send to autocrats all over the world. They might want to exert sphere of influence â€” perhaps on Indiaâ€™s borders. Those are not costs we are going to accept.
Q: There are visits from Western leaders and diplomats to India. Is this a way of pressuring India to change its stand towards Russia? Or is there an effort to understand?
A: We are living through a historical moment. It is a dangerous moment. President Joe Biden talks about it as one of those inflection point that comes around once every several generations. In this case, it is a contest between democracies and autocracies. And people all over the world, especially in China and Russia, are saying democracies are too slow and messy. They are too noisy to deal with great challenges of our time. So my view is that this is the moment for democracies to step up in solidarity and show that despite all of their flaws, democracies still offer the single best path for delivering dignity to all people. That is why I am here and I look to work with all of our democratic partners in a spirit of friendship and respect.
Q: There is going to be a 2+2 dialogue between India and US and a QUAD summit in the next few months, all under the shadow of the Ukraine crisis. Has the equation between India and US changed because of the Ukraine crisis and could it reflect in any of these meetings?
A: I would say the overall equation between the US and India has been changing for 30-plus years. The Ukraine crisis just accelerates that process. If we take the economic relationship, I think for much of the cold war.