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In response to India’s growing Russian oil imports, US envoy says it’s a sovereign decision

Elizabeth Jones, Charge d’Affaires at the US embassy. (File)

Despite the war in Ukraine, India continues to import oil from Russia at discounted rates. The US envoy in New Delhi said reducing revenues to Russia for funding its combat is a “sovereign decision.”

In her first media interaction since she got here last month, Elizabeth Jones, the US embassy charge d’affaires in New Delhi, said, “On the oil cap, we’re limiting revenues to Russia so they can’t use that money to continue fighting Ukraine.” The goal is to stop them. In terms of oil purchases, it seems appropriate to take that into account. But that’s a sovereign decision and has to be a sovereign decision.”

India has always defended its decision to buy crude oil from Russia, saying it needs it to meet its citizens’ energy demands and cushion the inflationary impact of the Russia-Ukraine war.

As for the Ukraine war, Jones, a career diplomat, said while the US and India agree on issues, their policies aren’t.

In response to a question about divergences in the Ukraine conflict, she said, “One thing we agree on is that we both support rules-based international order.” As both of us support it, we’re happy to share how much India has done to help the Ukrainian people during this brutal attack by the Russians.”

Among the things we like about our relationship is that we can discuss things we agree on. Still, the policies to get there aren’t always the same,” said Jones, assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasia, when NATO’s role in Europe was being discussed with Russia.

Asked about Beijing’s objection to the US-India defence exercises near the India-China border, she said, “I think I would point you to what our Indian colleagues have said, that it’s not their business.” Let’s leave it at that.”

When asked about possible rapprochement between the US and China (after the Biden-Xi meeting) and how it might affect India-US ties and the Indo-Pacific strategy, she said, “I wouldn’t be concerned about the US-India relationship or the US attitude towards the Indo-Pacific.” We’re still committed to our Indo-Pacific goals. Talking to China helps you figure out the most productive commitments.”

She said India and the US have a lot of cooperation on defence, and “our interest is to support India’s efforts to become more capable and make sure they’re directed in ways they think are important.” The Indian leadership decides what it wants and needs, and we support them.”

On India-Pakistan ties, Jones, who was deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in 1988 when Pakistan President General Zia-ul Haq and the then US ambassador to Pakistan were killed in a plane crash, says, “The United States views India and Pakistan as two separate policies… neither of them is dependent on the other.”

“The international community has shared concerns about terrorism anywhere, as well as any other kind of security threat, health threat, climate change threat, etc.,” she replied to a question about shared concerns about terrorism emanating from Pakistan. We must do our best to work on any of these issues in the best ways we can, multilaterally and bilaterally.”


It was the Interim US envoy’s job to ease some of the concerns in Delhi about the possible headwinds in Indo-US relations, from the Ukraine war to China-US engagement, people-to-people contact and India’s domestic problems.

When India became the G-20 president, she said, “We’re energized by it.” It shows the international community that India can lead in a complex world.”

As for the social problems in India, she said, “One of the things about our relationship is that it allows a frank discussion about social challenges in the United States, where the treatment of ethnic, racial, and religious minorities attracts a lot of attention.” I think we can learn from each other and how to promote tolerance among diverse communities. In those social areas, we’ve had similar experiences and challenges.”

In response to a question about hate speech in India, she said, “This is a conversation we have with Indian colleagues all the time… One of the benefits of this consequential relationship is that we can talk about many things: easy issues, difficult issues, issues on which we agree, and issues on which we don’t yet agree. We’ve been talking about this for a long time and will keep talking about it.”

Regarding visa delays, she said there are “difficulties” with the “long wait time” for appointments. The pandemic caused this problem, she said. Adding that visa officers are being recruited and trained, she said, “I can promise you that this is a severe issue on the minds of my colleagues in Washington.” There’s a lot of work going on.”

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