Commending India for standing up to the Chinese aggression and its challenge, Senator Warner, the Chairman of the powerful Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told PTI in an interview that the steps being taken by India vis-a-vis the Ukraine conflict so far are not enough and New Delhi can do more.
“I commend Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi for making that comment in front of (Russian President) Mr. (Vladimir) Putin in Uzbekistan. But one statement in a war that’s now over a year old, I think there’s more that can be done,” Warner said, referring to the PM’ this is “not an era of war” assertion.
India has maintained that it stands on the side of peace on the Ukrainian and has expressed willingness to contribute to any peace initiative between Russia dn Ukraine.
He said India is clearly dependent on outside forces for its military weapon supplies and oil needs. “One of the reasons why I think India’s transformation to a greener and different energy source is so important. I also think that some of my conversations with ministers and government officials below Prime Minister Modi and (EAM S) Jaishankar, who is also an extraordinarily talented individual, they were a little more candid,” said Warner.
He recently returned from India as part of a Congressional delegation that met among others Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
Responding to a question, Warner said that years ago there was even “an unwillingness to choose a side” vis-a-vis China.
“India, because of its own self-interest, and because the Chinese aggression has chosen a side and recognizes that no one wants conflict,…. India’s looking for allies that will stand against Chinese aggression, whether it’s economic aggression, whether it’s military aggression, whether it’s how you deal with the Indian Ocean on the Navy side, there has been greater cooperation,” he said.
He said India shares historic ties with Russia. “I understand if India were to make the break in terms of continuing to cut down the, the weapons from Russia, they have gotta make sure there was a reliable partner, whether it’s the United States or others that would be there if there ever was a conflict, to make sure the Indian military forces could be resupplied,” he said.
“So I understand that tension. And I do believe, a truly great power that India is, and an optimistic power that India is, (standing) on the sidelines when there is such a clear moral choice; no one can watch what’s happened in Ukraine, no one can watch the kind of brutal murders that took place in in Ukraine and say that both sides are wrong,” he said.
“This is a clear moral challenge in terms of Russian aggression and India prides itself as a country based upon clear moral values,” Warner said. “(India), I think can’t escape from the fact that at some point is gonna have to choose a side.”
These issues came up during the meetings of the Congressional delegation led by Senator Chuck Schumer with Indian leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
Warner said the US delegation’s message was heard by the Indian leadership but they “did not indicate any kind of changes in position”.
He was travelling India for the first time after COVID-19 with the nine-member Congressional delegation.
“There was enormous confidence. I felt that from the governmental leaders I met with. We had (meetings) both in New Delhi and Mumbai, and many meetings with serious business leaders,” he said.
Warner’s first trip to India was in 2005 as the Governor of Virginia.
“At that point there was this promise of what India could become. Now, I feel India is realizing that opportunity. So it was great from some of my Senate colleagues who had never been to India before to see it for the first time through their eyes, but also to kind of appreciate how far India has come and whether it’s cooperation on military affairs or in terms of cooperation on economic affairs, in terms of how many people have moved up the economic ladder,” he said.
Warner said in the past, India was on the path to becoming a great power. “But I feel that that past on the verge of being a great power has transformed to where now India is a great power,” he told PTI.
He said the US can learn from India how to get money delivered to the rural communities without leak.
The Senator from Virginia said that in the delegation’s meetings with the prime minister and the external affairs minister the Chinese challenge came up wherein they raised the understandable concerns about China, including border dispute.
Warner praised India for being ahead of most of the rest of the world in recognizing the possible vulnerabilities around Chinese technology.
“The fact that you’re excluded Huawei, the fact that you do not allow TikTok in India, those are things that we are moving to in the United States. But India’s already taken those steps. I think there was a real understanding that the United States and India need to collaborate not against China, but to recognize that China has expansionist plans throughout South Asia, or China has expansionist plans in Southeast Asia and there needs to be a counterbalance of two democracies that will stand firm not only on defense cooperation, but on values cooperation,” Warner said.