Sanctions on India likely after it abstained in UN vote on Ukraine: US

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The US has once again hinted at sanctioning India over the purchase of a missile defence system from Russia as the South Asian nation continues to balance its relations between the west and Moscow, reported The Independent.

Speaking to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, just after India had abstained from a vote on the UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, senior US diplomat Donald Lu said the Biden administration was still considering sanctions against India.

Nonetheless, Lu said the US government hopes India will begin to distance itself from Moscow.

“What I can say is that India is a really important security partner of ours now and that we value moving forward that partnership,” said Lu, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, adding that the decision on sanctions was still being considered and he did not want to prejudge it.

“I hope that part of what happens with the extreme criticism that Russia has faced, is that India will find it’s now time to further distance itself,” Lu said.

He did not specify whether India’s move to abstain from voting at the UN would have any bearing on the decision of imposing sanctions or a waiver amidst the current turmoil.

“We have spared no effort to try to convince India both to vote in UN sessions but also to show support for Ukraine at this critical moment,” Lu further said. “Those efforts were led by Secretary Blinken.”

The conversation over whether the US will sanction India after it purchased an S-400 Triumph missile defence system from Russia has been going on for many months.

The US’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) mandates sanctions against those buying arms from Russia, unless certain exceptions apply or the president chooses to waive them. It has already been used to sanction Turkey for a purchase from Russia.

Before the Ukraine conflict, it had been seen as likely the US would waive sanctions over India’s S-400 purchase, with Delhi arguing the equipment was a necessary deterrent against China.

Lu’s statement is being seen as a tactical approach from the US to get India, a long-term ally, onboard in condemning the Russian attack against Ukraine and to isolate Moscow further.

“It could be highly damaging for the US to impose sanctions on India,” says Harsh V Pant, director of research at the Observer Research Foundation – a think tank – and a professor of international relations at King’s College London.

“Americans are well aware of India’s dependency on Russia, there is no ambiguity in that regard,” Pant says, adding that the latest statements are a diplomatic effort to bring India on board with their cause while underscoring the American unhappiness at what India is doing.

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