India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Joe Biden. - file photo

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby has said that the United States didn’t want India to “rely on Russia” for its defence needs, adding that “we have been nothing but honest about that and discouraging that”.

The senior official made the statement in response to a question from a journalist regarding India’s ties with Russia amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

In a press briefing on Friday, Kirby said that US had been “very clear with India and other countries that we don’t want to see them rely on Russia for defence needs”.

“At the same time, we also value the defence partnership that we have with India. And as was evidenced a week ago, we’re looking at ways to improve that going forward. That’s going to continue because it matters and it’s important,” he added.

Kirby also said that India was a provider of security in the region and “we value that”.

Earlier, US had warned India against warming up to Russia. Daleep Singh, Washington’s chief sanctions strategist, was quoted by local media in a visit to Delhi as saying that India could not rely on Russia if there was another clash.

US President Joe Biden, last month, had said that India was an exception among Washington’s allies with its “shaky” response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine after it abstained from a United Nations vote condemning the invasion.

India and Russia are working on a rupee-ruble mechanism to facilitate trade and get around Western sanctions on Russian banks, according to media reports.

Russia has written to India’s defence ministry requesting clearance of payments worth $1.3 billion that have been halted since last month, according to the local Economic Times newspaper.

Johnson signs new deals with India

Kirby’s remarks on Friday come two days after Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on his first visit to India, agreed to step up defence and business cooperation between the two countries.

According to Reuters, the UK premier discussed with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi ways to boost security ties with India, which buys more than half of its military hardware from Russia.

Johnson also said Britain was creating an India-specific open general export license to slash delivery times for defence items. Only the European Union and the United States currently have such licences.

India’s foreign secretary, however, said Johnson did not put pressure on Modi over New Delhi’s position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Prime Minister Johnson shared his perspective on it, Prime Minister Modi shared ours – which is that the Russia-Ukraine war should end immediately,” Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters.

“There was no pressure of any kind.”

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