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US seeks to woo India as key defence partner with $500 million military aid, reduce Russian weapon dependence

Amid the Russia-West tussle over the former’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States has decided to reduce its dependence on Moscow’s weaponry and engage with India to deepen security ties with it.

The US is preparing a military aid package for India, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. The package would include foreign military financing of $500 million. This would make India one of the largest recipients of such aid, behind Israel and Egypt. The exact details of the deal are yet to be announced.

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The proposal comes amid US President Joe Biden’s effort to court India as a long-term security partner. The West has often implored India to slam Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, but New Delhi has stood firm on its stance to press for dialogues between the two nations to resolve the crisis.

An administration official said that Washington aims to be seen as a reliable partner for India. The US is working with other nations, including France, to make sure Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has the defence equipment it needs. “While India is already diversifying its military platforms away from Russia, the US wants to help make that happen faster,” the official said.

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“The major challenge remains how to provide India major platforms like fighter jets, naval ships and battle tanks and we are looking for a breakthrough in one of these areas,” the official said. The financing package being proposed would not exactly meet the requirements for these systems as they can cost billions of dollars, but it would be a “significant symbolic sign of support”.

India’s External Affairs Ministry didn’t immediately react and Officials at the State Department and US embassy in New Delhi declined to comment.

India is the largest consumer of Russian weapons. In the last 10 years, India has purchased over $4 billion worth of military equipment from the US and more than $25 billion from Russia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which collects data on arms transfers.

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The development (of the military aid package) at a time when various countries are looking to engage with India as a key security partner, especially against China in the Indo-Pacific region. PM Modi is scheduled to participate in a summit with US President Biden next week in South Korea. The meeting will include leaders from the Quad, a partnership between the US, India, Japan and Australia that has drawn criticism from China. PM Modi will also take part in the Group of Seven (G7) meeting in Germany next month.

(With inputs from Bloomberg)

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