Biden tells Modi more Russian oil imports not in India’s interest

United States President Joe Biden has held a “constructive, direct conversation” with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the White House said, as the US is seeking more help from India to apply economic pressure on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

In a news briefing on Monday afternoon, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden told Modi that his administration could help India diversify its oil imports – but that it was not in New Delhi’s interests to increase energy imports from Moscow.

The Biden administration already made it clear that it does not want to see a significant uptick in Russian energy imports by India, which has purchased at least 13 million barrels of discounted Russian crude since the country invaded Ukraine in late February.

“The president … conveyed that we are here to help them diversify their means of importing oil. The imports from the United States are already significant, much bigger than the imports that they get from Russia,” Psaki told reporters.

“The president conveyed very clearly that it is not in their interests to increase that.”

She did not say whether the US had received any commitments from India on energy imports.

Monday’s virtual talks, which preceded a “US-India 2+2 Ministerial” meeting, included US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Indian Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh.

The discussion came as New Delhi continues to try to balance its ties with Moscow and the West, which has imposed a series of sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine war and urged nations to move away from Russian energy supplies as a way to exert pressure on President Vladimir Putin.