Since the end of the Cold War, India’s relationship with Russia had not been an issue in its bilateral relations with the US. This will no longer be the case going forward. It was against this backdrop that the 2+2 Dialogue was held in Washington.
Despite the camaraderie during the get-together, differences between the two sides did come out after the session. Following President Biden’s summit with PM Modi, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “The President has made clear that he does not believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy and other commodities.”
Though they did not discuss human rights during the dialogue, the two sides sparred on the sidelines on the issue. Blinken voiced concerns about India’s recent human rights record on April 11, stating: “We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values [of human rights] and to that end, we are monitoring some recent concerning developments in India including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials.”
On April 13, just before returning to New Delhi, Jaishankar said: “People are entitled to have views about us…. We also are entitled to have views about their lobbies and vote banks. We will not be reticent. We also have views on other people’s human rights, particularly when it pertains to our community.”
These remarks by the top diplomats of the two countries are a clear indication that the issue of human rights remains on the table for both nations. So, too, does India’s relationship with Russia and its stance on Ukraine.
Nonetheless, the successful conclusion of the 2+2 Dialogue demonstrates that India and the US can work together despite their differences in these key areas. There was a concern among some in both New Delhi and Washington that India’s position on the Ukraine war might jeopardise Quad — the four-nation group of democracies that also includes Australia and Japan. Now, after the talks, one can safely say that Quad is alive and well.