New Delhi, Apr 11 (PTI) President Joe Biden on Monday said the US and India will continue consultations to cope with the “destabilising” effects of the Russian war in Ukraine during a virtual meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi who highlighted the need for direct talks between President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart to resolve the crisis.
In his televised opening remarks, Modi called the situation in Ukraine “very worrisome” and hoped that the ongoing dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv will lead to peace.
A readout by the White House said Modi and Biden discussed the “destabilising impacts of Russia’s war against Ukraine, with a particular focus on global food supply”.
In his remarks, Modi said the recent reports of killings of innocent civilians in Bucha city were very concerning and that India immediately condemned it and demanded a fair investigation.
The prime minister referred to his phone conversations with the Ukrainian and Russian presidents and said he suggested to Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold direct talks with his Ukrainian counterpart.
The virtual meeting came in the midst of some disquiet in Washington over India’s position on the Ukraine crisis as well as its decision to procure discounted Russian oil.
In his remarks Biden talked about the strong India-US defence partnership, stressing that both the countries are going to “continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war”.
“Our today’s talks are taking place at a time when the situation in Ukraine remains very worrisome. Till a few weeks ago, more than 20,000 Indians were stranded in Ukraine. And most of these were young students,” Modi said.
The prime minister also noted that an Indian student lost his life in Ukraine.
“After a lot of hard work, we were able to get them out of there safely, although one student lost his life. Throughout this development, I spoke on the phone several times with the Presidents of both Ukraine and Russia,” he said.
“Not only did I appeal for peace, but I also suggested President Putin to have direct talks with the President of Ukraine. The subject of Ukraine has been discussed in great detail in our Parliament as well,” Modi added.
The Modi-Biden meeting took place ahead of the fourth India-US ‘2+2’ dialogue in Washington which will be led by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on the Indian side and their US counterparts, Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony J Blinken.
Singh, Jaishankar, Austin and Blinken were at the White House during the Modi-Biden talks.
“The two leaders had an extensive exchange of views on several regional and global issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, global economic recovery, climate action, recent developments in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region, and the situation in Ukraine,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
It said Modi and Biden also took stock of the significant progress made in bilateral relations in recent years. “Both leaders agreed that further strengthening of the India-US comprehensive global strategic partnership would be of tremendous benefit to the two countries, and would also contribute to global peace, prosperity and stability,” it said.
In his remarks, Biden said continued consultation and dialogue between India and the US are key to ensuring that the relationship keeps growing “deeper and stronger delivering our people and our global good that we all are seeking to manage particularly in your part of the world.” “I want to welcome India’s humanitarian support for the people of Ukraine who are suffering the horrific assault including a tragic shelling on a train station last week that killed dozens of innocent children, women and civilians attempting to flee the violence,” Biden said.
“The root of our partnership is a deep connection between our people, ties of family, of friendship and of shared values,” the US president said.
At the meeting, Modi also talked about India’s humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
“We have also placed importance on the safety of civilian people in Ukraine and the uninterrupted supply of humanitarian aid to them and which you have just mentioned in the beginning,” Modi said.
“On our behalf, we have sent medicines and other relief materials to Ukraine and its neighbouring countries. And on the demand of Ukraine we are sending another consignment of medicines very soon,” he said.
The prime minister also referred to Biden’s slogan at the very beginning of his that ‘democracies can deliver’.
“The success of India-US partnership is the best way to make this slogan meaningful,” he said.
Referring to the 75th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries, Modi said he was confident that India-US friendship will be an integral part of India’s development journey for the next 25 years.
“In September last year, when I came to Washington, and which you have just mentioned, you said that the India-US partnership can contribute to resolving many global problems. I completely agree with you,” Modi said.
“As the world’s two largest and oldest democracies, we are natural partners,” he said.
The White House said the two leaders committed to strengthening the US-India relationship through cooperation on clean energy, technology and military cooperation, and expanded economic and people-to-people ties.
“They also committed to continuing cooperation – bilaterally and multilaterally — on ending the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthening global health security, advancing global food security, and ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it said.
“They emphasized their shared commitment, as leaders of the world’s largest democracies, to respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations in the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” the White House said.
Unlike its Quad partner countries, India has not yet condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and it abstained from the votes at the UN platforms on the Russian aggression.
India has been pressing for an immediate cessation of violence in Ukraine and seeking a resolution of the crisis through diplomacy and dialogue.
Modi has held phone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24, March 2 and March 7. He had also spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy twice.
In a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on April 1, Modi conveyed that India stands ready to contribute in any way to the peace efforts to resolve the conflict in Ukraine.
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