U.S. President Joe Biden has asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to accelerate purchases of Russian oil, saying doing so would not be in India’s interest and could hamper the U.S. response to the war in Ukraine.

Biden, who is seeking to build a wider coalition of nations opposed to Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, told Modi during an hourlong video call on April 11 that India’s position in the world would not be enhanced by relying on Russian energy sources.

“The president also made clear that he doesn’t believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy or other commodities,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Biden also told Modi that the U.S. could help India diversify its sources of energy, Psaki said, but did not did not disclose whether India had made any commitments on energy imports.

As the U.S. and other nations try to cut off Moscow’s energy income, India has stepped up recently with a major purchase.

India also signaled restraint when it was among 58 countries that last week abstained from a U.S.-led effort to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over allegations that Russian soldiers in Ukraine engaged in rights violations.

US President Joe Biden (left) had an hourlong video call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 11. (file photo)
US President Joe Biden (left) had an hourlong video call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 11.

The call was characterized as “warm” and “candid,” but the White House could not say if India stood with the United States in fully condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying the choice ultimately rested with Modi’s government.

Biden opened the video conversation by emphasizing the defense partnership between the two countries and by saying that the United States and India are going to “continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war” on food and other commodities.

“The root of our partnership is a deep connection between our people, ties of family, of friendship, and of shared values,” Biden said.

During the call Modi called the situation in Ukraine “very worrying” and noted that an Indian student lost his life during the war. He said he has spoken with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, appealing to both for peace.

Also on April 11, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met in person with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

Austin appealed to India to act together with fellow democracies, saying now more than ever “democracies must stand together to defend the values that we all share.”

Blinken and Jaishankar said India’s defense modernization needs were a key topic that they discussed at length.

“Today we are able and willing to be a partner of choice with India across virtually every realm,” Blinken said at a joint news conference following the talks.