Washington warned that by straying from “shared values,” New Delhi risked returning to the frigid relations of the Cold War era United States Deputy Secretary of State Richard Verma and India’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar © X/DrSJaishankar

India and the US should not stray from the “shared values” that bind the two nations together and cooperate on global challenges like the Ukraine conflict, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Verma, a former ambassador to India has suggested.

If the two countries maintain only “transactional” interests, ties could return to the state they were in from 1960 to 1980, when India and the US were not seen as close, warned Verma, while speaking at a panel on bilateral ties hosted by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) think tank on Tuesday.

“We are both post-colonial democratic powers governed by a constitutional framework with checks and balances,” Verma, who is of Indian origin, was quoted as saying during the discussion by The Hindu newspaper. “We aspire for equality, social inclusion, racial and minority rights and so much more.” Noting what he called India’s “complicated history” with Russia, Verma admitted that the US as a NATO member has “different responsibilities.”

New Delhi’s top officials, including Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, have defended the country’s traditional friendship with Moscow, including the decision to ramp up Russian oil imports, as driven by “pragmatism.” New Delhi has refused to implement US-led sanctions against the country – instead, it has expanded bilateral trade ties.

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The new US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti, speaking at the same event, suggested that India can be a “great marketplace and producer” of military hardware for third countries that might not be able to afford to buy arms from the US directly. This, according to Garcetti, can help discourage these countries from defense cooperation with “mutual adversaries.”

While New Delhi has diversified its arms imports over the past decade, Russia remains its biggest defense supplier, according to a report last year by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The two countries continue to expand joint projects for manufacturing various weapons systems in India.

Russia’s Ambassador to India Denis Alipov argued recently in an interview with RT that US officials are openly pursuing the goal of “tearing New Delhi away from Moscow.” “They are even making threats with secondary sanctions. Some Indian partners are forced to exercise caution, sometimes – frankly speaking – excessively, but there are also a significant number of those for whom such an approach is unacceptable,” he observed.

Meanwhile, New Delhi’s ties with Washington have lately been impacted by a US court indictment which linked the Indian government to a foiled assassination plot against New York-based attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. The head of a radical Sikh separatist outfit that is outlawed in India, Pannun threatened Indian diplomats and officials, including the prime minister. When asked about the impact of this case on the bilateral relationship, the US diplomat stated that both sides remained “engaged” on the issue and Washington is still looking forward to the findings of a committee set up by the Indian government to probe the case.

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