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India’s dependence on Russian arms not in best interest, says US defence chief

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Speaking to US lawmakers, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin underscored America’s desire to see India scale down its dependence on Russian military equipment.

It is not in India’s best interest to continue investing in Russian military equipment, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers on Tuesday, underscoring the American desire that New Delhi scales down its dependence on Russian military equipment.

We continue to work with them (India) to ensure that they understand that it’s not in their — we believe that — it’s not in their best interest to continue to invest in Russian equipment,” Austin told the members of the House Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing on the annual defence budget.

“And our requirement going forward is that they downscale the types of equipment that they’re investing in and look to invest more in the types of things that will make us continue to be compatible,” Austin said.

The defence secretary was responding to a question from Congressman Joe Wilson, a friend of India in the Congress who, of late, has been critical of India deciding to take an independent position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Gruesomely, our treasured ally India, the world’s largest democracy, is choosing to align itself with the Kremlin by choosing Russian weapons systems over American and allied options,” Wilson said.

What weapons platforms could we offer through the foreign military sales program that would incentivise rush — Indian leaders to reject Putin and align with its natural allies of democracy?” he asked.

The United States has the finest weapons systems in the world and the most advanced weapons systems in the world, Austin said.

“So, we have a range of capabilities that we can provide or offer (to India),” said the defence secretary.

“I look forward to you continuing to work with the great people of India. And what a great ally they can be if we eliminate some of the restrictions on sales,” Wilson said.

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