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WASHINGTON: A senior White House official said on Friday India’s position at the United Nations over the crisis in Ukraine has been “unsatisfactory” but was also unsurprising given its historical relationship with Russia.

Mira Rapp-Hooper, director for the Indo-Pacific on the White House National Security Council, told a panel discussion it was necessary to provide India with alternatives to continued close ties with Russia. “I think we would certainly all acknowledge and agree that when it comes to votes at the UN, India’s position on the current crisis has been unsatisfactory, to say the least. But it’s also been totally unsurprising,” she said.

India has developed close ties with Washington in recent years and is a vital part of the Quad grouping aimed at pushing back against China. But it has a long-standing relationship with Moscow, which remains a major supplier of its defence equipment. India has avoided condemning Russian actions in Ukraine and abstained in U.N. Security Council votes on the issue. Rapp-Hooper said India had cleaved closer to Russia as a hedge as its relationship with China worsened, but it was thinking “long and hard” about its defence dependency on Russia.

“I think our perspective would be that the way forward involves keeping India close, thinking hard about how to present it with options, so that it can continue to provide for its strategic autonomy,” she said.

Even before the Ukraine crisis erupted, Delhi upset Washington with its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defence system, putting it at risk of US sanctions under a 2017 US law aimed at deterring countries from buying Russian military hardware. Analysts say sanctions against India could jeopardize U.S. cooperation with Delhi in the Quad forum with Japan and Australia aimed at countering China’s expanding influence.

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