India, not China, better suited for resolving Ukraine crisis: US Congressman Bera

Washington: India is much better suited than China to play a leading role in resolving the war in Ukraine because of New Delhi’s old relationship with Moscow, a top Indian American Congressman has said.

Congressman Ami Bera said he would love to see the Indian government use its full diplomatic capacities to help end the conflict in Ukraine.

He said he was not sure if Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden will discuss the conflict in Ukraine in their meeting in the Oval Office next week.

“I am not sure (talks on this issue) will happen, but I certainly think India can play a leading role in helping us resolve the Russia-Ukraine crisis. India obviously has an old relationship with Russia,” Bera told PTI on Thursday.

“The Prime Minister can have conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin that we’re not going to be able to have. I think it’s in everyone’s interest to see some resolution to this conflict. So, you see (Chinese President) Xi Jinping trying to negotiate some sort of ceasefire or resolution. I actually think India is much better suited for this role, because of the relationship that they have with Vladimir Putin,” Bera said.

Since the Ukraine conflict began in February last year, Modi spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a number of times during which he insisted that the conflict should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy.

“We have said from the beginning, that dialogue and diplomacy is the only way. And to solve this situation, we will try as much as possible, whatever can be done from India,” Modi said in his address at a G7 session in Hiroshima, Japan in May.

During the White House meeting next week, Bera said Biden and Modi will talk about economic partnerships.

“There’ll be some conversations around trade relations. I think they’ll talk about supply chains. India can be a critical supplier of raw ingredients. They certainly have a mature pharmaceutical sector, but also on the technology side,” he said.

There will be a discussion around geopolitical security, Bera said, adding that it will involve what is happening on India’s northern border with China and those border incursions.

“It will also be in maritime space. I think there’ll be conversations about the defence relationship, some of the opportunities for co-production,” the 58-year-old Democratic Party lawmaker said.

Prime Minister Modi is visiting the US from June 21-24 at the invitation of US President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. They will host Modi at a state dinner on June 22. The visit also includes an address to the Joint Session of the Congress on June 22. Bera said Modi’s state visit to the US is a recognition of the strength of the India-US relationship.

“The fact that he’s invited by a Democratic President for a State Visit and by a Republican Speaker of the House for a joint session of Congress emphasises the bipartisan nature of the US-India relationship; how Congress and the administration see the importance of this relationship,” he said.

Bera, who is in his sixth consecutive term, is the senior most and the longest serving Indian American Congressman in the House of Representatives.

He is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Select Committee on Intelligence.

“(The address to the joint session of the Congress) gives Prime Minister Modi an opportunity to lay out how India is viewing the relationship to members of Congress; those important opportunities both in the economic space and supply chain, but also in regional security in Asia.

“I think it’s a platform that the prime minister can use to emphasise the importance of the relationship from the Indian side,” Bera said.

He said the US-India relationship could be the most important partnership of the 21st century.

“Coming out of the pandemic, the opportunity for stronger partnerships in vaccine development in the pharmaceutical space, defence relationship has been very strong.

“I anticipate you’ll see some announcements in the defence space that come out of the State Visit. So, I think President Biden has been a leader in this space and continues to be,” Bera said.

The pandemic was a challenge for the US and India, he said, asserting that Modi and Biden should look at opportunities around supply chains, co-production technologies and how to work together on artificial intelligence.

Under President Biden, the Quad coalition has been elevated to the leader’s level, he said.

“That has placed an emphasis. Often people will say, this is about China, and certainly, China looms large in the conversation. But it’s about more than that. It’s about economic cooperation.

“It’s about working together as leading democracies. It’s about maritime security and freedom of navigation. I think you will continue to see the Quad take on more and more importance,” he said.

Bera also said the diaspora is starting to play a role in moving the US-India relationship in a positive direction.