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Russia's invasion of Ukraine has drawn widespread condemnation from several countries, including the US

Washington: India's relationship with Russia is distinct from that the US shares with the latter and that is okay, the Biden administration said, underlining that Washington has asked every country that has leverage with Moscow to use it to protect rules-based international order.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price noted that the US shares important interests and values with India.

"We share important interests with India. We share important values with India. And we know India has a relationship with Russia that is distinct from the relationship that we have with Russia. Of course, that is okay," Price told reporters at his daily news conference on Friday.

"India has a relationship with Russia that we certainly don't have. India and Russia have a relationship, including in the defence and security sector, that we don't have. ... we have asked every country that has a relationship and certainly those countries that have leverage to use that leverage in a constructive way," he said in response to a question.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a special military operation in Ukraine on Wednesday night. Russia has launched multiple attacks on several areas in central and eastern Ukraine, drawing widespread condemnation and sanctions from several countries, including the US.

The US, Price said, has a broad strategic partnership with India.

"As you know, we had an opportunity to see our Indian counterpart Foreign Minister Jaishankar in Australia just the other day when we were in the Indo-Pacific for a meeting of the Quad," he said.

"What we have done, including in the context of the bilateral discussion we had with Foreign Minister Jaishankar in Melbourne, was to share our fervent belief that countries around the world, especially those countries that have a level of influence, of clout, of leverage with the Russian Federation, needed to use that to good effect, needed to use that to protect the rules-based international order," he said.

Responding to another question, Price said that the US has communicated to Pakistan its position on what was then the threat of a Russian invasion and what is now the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"Just as India does, Pakistan knows precisely where we stand on this. These are again rules, norms, guidelines that benefit India, Pakistan, the United States, and Russia as well," he said.

Putin met Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Kremlin on Thursday in his first face-to-face talks since the start of the special Russian military operation in eastern Ukraine and the two leaders discussed the main aspects of bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on current regional topics, including developments in South Asia.

The choices for India remain stark against the backdrop of the Indian Army’s continuing standoff with China and also with regard to future long-term security alliances

by Rahul Bedi

India can presently be likened to a bewildered and perplexed rabbit caught in the headlights of two of its strategic and defence allies – Russia and the US – both of who are demanding its commitment to their hostile line-up on warring sides over the former’s military invasion of Ukraine.

India’s predicament just sharpened following its decision to abstain at the UN Security Council when a US-sponsored resolution condemning Russia was put to vote on Friday, New York time.

Security analysts, diplomats and senior services personnel believe that New Delhi’s paradoxical predicament presents hugely uncertain outcomes, in which it is likely to get badly scalded. But it remains to be seen, over the next few days, how severely it gets singed, as it plays out its poor hand in the high-stakes poker game underway in Ukraine, Moscow, Washington and several other European and world capitals.

The choices for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government remain stark, against the backdrop of the Indian Army’s continuing standoff with China along the disputed line of actual control or LAC in eastern Ladakh, and also with regard to India’s future long-term security alliances.

Condemning Russia for its ongoing offensive against Ukraine by land, sea and air, and backing the harsh US-led sanctions against Moscow, runs the assured risk of India annoying a dependable ally and long-standing material supplier, albeit with close ties to China.

Not doing so would similarly aggravate strategic partner and defence equipment provider Washington which is also a Quadrilateral partner along with Australia and Japan. The US had also ably supported Delhi over its Ladakh impasse in addition to being a close naval collaborator in the Indo-Pacific region.

A Grim Hobson’s Choice

Regrettably, however, much to the Modi government’s discomfiture, settling for India’s timeworn ‘strategic autonomy’ option of equitably balancing its strategic, military, political and diplomatic relations with Moscow and Washington, simply does not appear to be the default option anymore.

Ironically, the prevailing fraught circumstances, with limited alternatives, present India with the hackneyed fait accompli of whether it is with the US or Russia; both possibilities are simply unacceptable.

Serving and retired military officers in Delhi claimed that Ukraine’s annexation by Russia had, without doubt, put India in the unenviable and pincer-like situation of damned if it condemned Russia for its Ukraine misadventure; and damned by Washington and its NATO allies, if it did not.

“It’s a poisoned chalice-like situation for India,” said retired Brigadier Rahul Bhonsle of the Security Risks consultancy group in Delhi. It faces a grim Hobson’s Choice in this crisis and has to tread warily to try and find a compromise solution which will be difficult to attain, he added.

In his telephonic conversation with President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, Modi had incredulously called for restraint and “honest and sincere dialogue” at a juncture when Russian tanks, artillery and ground troops had already encircled the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and firefights in the streets were audible in television reports. Russian combat aircraft and attack helicopters circled the skies overhead, leaving no doubt that Russia’s sole goal is Ukraine’s eventual annexation. The time for Modi’s suggestion for conciliation and negotiation seemed long past, as Putin was already headed for the finish.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Delhi too expressed his “deep dissatisfaction” with India’s non-committal position on the Russian invasion, and called upon Modi to prevail upon Putin to end hostilities.

“We are waiting, we are asking, we are pleading for the strong voice of India (to condemn the aggression),” ambassador Igor Polkha told ANI news agency on Thursday. The Ukrainian ambassador, it seems, will have to wait.

US Congressmen in Washington, interviewed by CNN, too echoed analogous views, criticising India for neither condemning the military intervention nor supporting the subsequent sanctions. One Congressman even paired India with China in this regard, as one of two major (nuclear-armed) countries who had neither denounced Russia’s military campaign nor backed the ensuing embargoes. China’s stance, he inferred was understandable as it was Russia’s close ally, but not India’s, which was a democracy.

Road Ahead For India

But like the perilous rabbit, India’s alternatives in the Ukrainian calamity are daunting as sanctions on Russia would most certainly impinge on its military’s operational readiness, while supporting Washington’s stand would in no way alleviate this situation, only exacerbate it.

The US-led embargoes on Russia would most definitely impact the imminent transfer to India of four of five Russian Almaz-Antey S-400 Triumf self-propelled surface-to-air (SAM) missile systems it had ordered in 2018 for deployment along the LAC and over 20,000 Kalashnikov Ak-203 assault rifles, badly-needed by Indian Army units in Ladakh and others employed on counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir.

Sanctions would also stem the supply of assorted Russian missiles, ammunition, ordnance, spares and components, essential to keep the Indian military’s predominantly Russian platforms operative. Indian Army officers warned that this paucity could prove “worrisome” in the upcoming summer months along the LAC in Ladakh when the snows had melted and an emboldened PLA, aware of its rivals’ handicaps, re-emerged as a palpable threat.

And if these sanctions endured, which by all indications they would, considering Moscow’s aim of eventually occupying Ukraine, the transfer to the Indian Navy of four Admiral Grigorovich Project 1135.6M stealth frigates – two of which are being built in Russia and two indigenously under a technology transfer – and the leasing of one more’ Akulka’ (Schuka-B)-class nuclear-powered submarine (SSN) would be endangered, if not altogether terminated.

Alongside, the export to India of critical components and sub-assemblies for the Indo-Russian BrahMos cruise missile, for which India had recently bagged a $375 million order from the Philippines, too would be imperilled and could be scrapped.

Over the past two decades, in which India has acquired almost $20 billion worth of US defence equipment, Delhi had managed to balance its strategic and defence ties equitably between Moscow and Washington. The latter had turned a Nelson’s eye to India acquiring Russian military hardware, provided Delhi also placed adequate orders for US equipment, which it did.

Under this unstated ‘accommodative’ agreement the US had also desisted from sanctioning India for recently deploying in Punjab its first S-400 system under its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) enacted in 2017. The Act was aimed at penalising almost all Russian military design and production units, amongst other facilities, for its annexation of Crimea and for reportedly interfering in the US Presidential elections two years later. So far CAATSA has been invoked against China and Turkey for installing S-400 system, but Delhi seemed to have been provided a ‘silent waiver’, with Washington making occasional anodyne references to the matter and little else.

Furthermore, industry officials said that in anticipation of Washington’s pique and displeasure over acquiring the S-400, India’s ministry of defence (MoD) had, in July 2018, quietly approved the $1 billion import from the US of Raytheon’s National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System-2 (NASAMS-2) for the Indian Air Force to fortify the country’s missile defence shield over Delhi.

Thereafter, the MoD also sanctioned the $3 billion import of 30 weaponised General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) Sea Guardian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that were to be divided equally between the three services.

However, both these ‘placatory’ buys have since been shelved and with the Ukraine crisis erupting, it is quite likely that an agitated and frustrated US would, in all likelihood, end up sanctioning India over the S-400 as it was in the pipeline, easy to accomplish and would hurt Russia.

If so, it would only intensify Delhi’s prevailing vacillation and overall sense of simply not knowing what to do.

New York: Russia on Friday (local time) vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution on Ukraine, while India, China, and UAE abstained from the vote.

The vote was 11 in favour, one against, and three abstentions.

India abstained from voting saying that the path of the "diplomacy was given up".

"India's deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine. We urge that all efforts are made for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities," said India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, TS Tirumurti at the UNSC meeting on Ukraine.

"It is a matter of regret that the path of diplomacy was given up. We must return to it. For all these reasons India has chosen to abstain on this resolution," Tirumurti said.

Meanwhile, China's permanent representative to the UN, Zhang Jun said that the security of one country cannot come at the cost of undermining the security of other nations..., China abstained in the vote".

"We believe that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states should be respected and that the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be upheld," said Zhang Jun.

"...Security of one country cannot come at the cost of undermining the security of other nations...China abstained in the vote...Ukraine should become a bridge between East and West, said China's permanent representative to the UN.

During the UNSC meeting on Ukraine, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that "Russia's latest attack on our most fundamental principles is so bold, so brazen that it threatens our international system as we know it."

Moreover, UK Ambassador to UN Barbara Woodward said that "Russian President Vladimir Putin has launched a massive invasion of Ukraine. His aim is to remove its govt & subjugate its people. This is not self-defence. It is naked aggression."

The Zorya facility was a major supplier to the Soviet and later Russian navies

The Russian attack on Ukraine has put India in a spot. New Delhi is facing demands from the West and Ukraine to condemn Russia, while needing to preserve its changing, but still vital, relationship with Moscow.

The most visible aspect of India's relationship with Russia has been arms deals. Russian hardware still accounts for approximately 70 per cent of India's weapons. But not many laypersons know Ukraine also plays a vital role as a supplier to India's military, including providing crucial subsystems for Russian weapons.

Ukraine and India have been engaged in an arduous process to upgrade the Indian Air Force's fleet of over 100 Antonov An-32 transport aircraft. The Antonov upgrade programme was briefly disrupted by the conflict in Crimea in 2014. But Ukraine has, arguably, had primacy in the supply of one type of crucial system to India: Marine gas turbine engines to the Indian Navy.

Around 30 ships of the Indian Navy use gas turbines from Ukraine's Zorya Mashproekt as their primary source of propulsion. These ships range from the nimble Veer class missile boats (which displace around 500 tonnes) to the ageing Rajput class destroyers to the brand-new Visakhapatnam class destroyers (displacement of around 8,000 tonnes). Four frigates of the Russian-designed Admiral Grigorovich class, which are being built for the Indian Navy at shipyards in Russia and Goa, also use engines from the Zorya facility.

Captain D.K. Sharma (Retd) warned the conflict in Ukraine could potentially cripple the Indian Navy. Sharma had been spokesperson of the Indian Navy.

Sharma explained that gas turbines are complicated systems, which cannot be replaced easily. He noted “Warships are designed around their engines. If your ship is meant for anti-submarine warfare, it needs an engine that is quiet. If you need shoot-and-scoot capability, you need an engine that offers speed. These capabilities need specific components for cooling and auxiliary parts. You can't replace a gas turbine with a diesel engine.”

Sharma noted that while the Indian Navy's marine gas turbine overhaul centre at INS Eksila in Visakhapatnam could overhaul the existing engines, such a facility would still need parts from the original supplier.

In November last year, Zorya Mashproekt signed an agreement with Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) to allow for ‘partially localised’ manufacturing of some components of the marine gas turbines used in India. But it is yet unclear how much progress the venture has made.

Soviet Legacy

The Indian Navy's relationship with Ukraine is a consequence of its Cold War era dependence on the USSR as its primary source of ships and equipment.

The Zorya facility was a major supplier to the Soviet and later Russian navies. In fact, two of the Admiral Grigorovich class warships that are being built for the Indian Navy were originally meant for the Russian Navy. However, Russia cancelled the order after Ukraine embargoed the sale of the engines from the Zorya facility, following the invasion of Crimea. For the four ships, India had to separately purchase the gas turbines from Ukraine for installation on the vessels.

Sharma pointed out India would have to exhibit diplomatic dexterity to ensure that the flow of spares and parts from Ukraine for the gas turbines would continue.

Retired rear admiral Sudarshan Shrikhande hoped that the Indian government would have found the means to have obtained spares as part of its stocking in earlier months and years of parts from Ukraine. He reiterated the importance of the industrial facility INS Eksila, which was inaugurated in 1991, crediting the Indian Navy leadership of the time for the vision to create a centre in India to service gas turbine propulsion and power generation machinery of several classes of ships, instead of sending them back to Ukraine or Russia.

CAATSA Trouble

However, Shrikhande said that the conflict in Ukraine could, nonetheless, lead to several complications for spares and new construction, including exorbitant costs for even simpler components and small parts. This is a phenomenon, as has been reported in the media, that the Indian armed forces encountered in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“In addition, if Ukraine becomes Russian territory or is under Russian de facto control, then it is possible that Western sanctions could apply to payment and transportation issues for a long time to come. As such, we can expect a renewed push for measures like CAATSA against Moscow that would impact us in several ways,” Shrikhande noted.

Shrikhande added that all these risks point to a greater need to be genuinely self-reliant and ‘Atmanirbhar’ in so many areas including aero and marine gas turbines for the Navy and Air Force of tomorrow.

The Indian Air Force has strengthened its combat potential significantly since the bombing of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) targets in Pakistan’s Balakot exactly three years ago, with the induction of Rafale jets armed with potent beyond visual range (BVR) missiles, S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems, a medium range surface-to-air-missile (MRSAM) system and smart air-to-ground weapons, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

“The Rafale along with its Meteor BVR air-to-air missile and the S-400 systems represent a significant capability enhancement. If we had Rafales then, the Pakistan Air Force wouldn’t have dared to launch its fighter jets a day after the Balakot air strikes,” said a senior official, who asked not to be named.

India’s unprecedented, peacetime cross-border airstrikes came on the back of the February 14, 2019, Pulwama terror attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police force (CRPF) men were killed.

On February 26, 2019, IAF’s Mirage 2000s hit three targets in Balakot with five Israeli-origin Spice 2000 bombs with penetrator warheads that allowed them to pierce through the rooftops before exploding inside to cause maximum damage.

There has been no major Pakistan-sponsored terror attack on Indian soil during the last three years, said a second official, who also asked not to be named. “The Balakot strikes served their purpose. Pakistan has realised that India has the will and capability to hit back hard,” he added.

Pakistan Air Force fighters made a failed attempt to bomb Indian military installations on February 27, 2019, leading to an aerial engagement along the Line of Control during which Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman scripted military aviation history by downing an F-16, seconds before his own MiG-21 Bison was hit by a missile forcing him to eject. He was captured after he bailed out of his aircraft, but Pakistan returned him to India on March 1 after holding him captive for almost 60 hours. He was later awarded the Vir Chakra, India’s third-highest wartime gallantry award.

“With the induction of Meteor-armed Rafales, the BVR advantage has been restored. The other weapon systems that have been inducted over the last three years have led to a quantum jump in capability,” said Air Marshal Anil Chopra (Retd), director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.

“The Balakot targeting was fantastic and it couldn’t have been better. What happened a day after Balakot could have been prevented if we had Rafales then. But as we have only 36 Rafales, we can’t make sure they are everywhere. We need more numbers,” said a retired three-star IAF officer, asking not to be named.

IAF has armed the Rafale fighter jets with an all-weather smart weapon of French origin called Hammer (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range). It can engage ground targets from a standoff range of up to 60 km.

The platforms inducted after the Balakot raid include AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and CH-47F (I) Chinook multi-mission helicopters. To be sure, these acquisitions were planned years before the Balakot airstrikes.

Last September, IAF inducted an MRSAM system capable of knocking out aerial threats such as enemy fighter jets, missiles, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles at a range of 70 km. India and Israel have jointly developed MRSAM or the Barak 8 air defence system.

IAF has also begun the induction of S-400 missile systems that are capable of destroying jets and missiles at a range of 400 km.

Last year, then IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria flew in a multi-aircraft formation to mark the second anniversary of the Balakot operations. The five-aircraft formation consisted of Mirage 2000s and Sukhoi-30 fighters. While the actual bombing was carried out by the Mirages, Su-30s were part of the IAF’s strike package that day.

Each bomb that hit the JeM targets carried around 80 kg of explosives in a 900-kg steel casing, with the explosion caused by time-delay fuses sending a lethal quantity of shrapnel that instantly killed the occupants. The bombs hit their targets in a vertical attack angle, leaving holes measuring 80 to 90 cm in diameter on the rooftops of the structures, as previously reported.

Islamabad: As the Moscow visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan concludes, Pakistan has not achieved any tangible gains, while irking the US further, a report has said.

"We've communicated to Pakistan our position regarding Russia's further renewed invasion of Ukraine, and we have briefed them on our efforts to pursue diplomacy in our war," said US State Department spokesperson, Ted Price.

Imran Khan's meeting with Putin came hours after several Western nations hit Russia with new sanctions, which Khan himself is seen joyfully describing as "exciting times" in a video shared on Twitter of Khan's landing in Moscow.

It gives the Western Powers for whom Pakistan is a "non-NATO ally," reasons to be annoyed, The Times of Israel reported.

On top of this, Khan's added 'disqualification' in eyes of the US is that his country is being increasingly seen as a Chinese ally. China is the US's larger adversary that is tacitly supporting Moscow, the report said, adding further that, Khan may soon realize that he is being the "wrong man in the wrong place, at the wrong time."

The 'ill-timed' visit has been heavily criticized in Pakistan, with media and analysts questioning the utility of a visit at such a time when tensions are at an all-time high between Russia and the West.

Prior to the Moscow visit, Pakistani security analysts had urged Khan to watch his step. They warned that there is a cost to one-dimensional foreign policy towards regional powers and compartmentalizing relations, the report highlighted.

Imran Khan's visit to Moscow did not result in any financial assistance for the economically fragile country, nor much was achieved otherwise with Moscow issuing a brief statement on the visit saying that the two leaders discussed the main aspects of bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on current regional topics, including developments in South Asia.

Islamabad: Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan would have little to remember or cherish about his 2-day visit to Russia which concluded on February 24.

The Pak cricketer-turned-politician who had arrived in Russia on February 23 with hopes of expanding bilateral ties and cooperation in the energy sector was caught on wrong foot when several questions were raised in Pakistani and global media over the timing of his visit.

Just before the visit, a statement from Pakistan's ambassador in Ukraine, Noel Israel Khokhar proved to be a diplomatic embarrassment for the country.

After his meeting with Ukraine's First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzheppar on February 21, Khokhar assured about Pakistan's support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The assertion which was viewed as opposing Russia was followed by a visit by his Prime Minister to Russia two days later, that too in the middle of the crisis.

Moreover, the domestic opposition to the visit remained on full public display during the last few days. Other than sending confusing signals globally, Imran Khan ended up irking media and political observers at home.

Some leaders belonging to his own political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were baffled as Imran chose a time when the opposition parties were gearing up for a no-confidence motion against his government in the National Assembly.

Moreover, the lack of any visible concern for the deepening economic crisis in the country added to the woes of government leaders and officials who were left behind to explain the rationale behind visiting a country engaged in conflict. Several analysts had warned about the pitfalls of visiting Moscow as Pakistan looks towards IMF for economic aid while Russia is crisis-bound to oblige Pakistan.

Considering the outcome of the visit, the warnings and predictions did not prove to be wrong. The separate press releases issued by the two sides after the visit did not mention signing of any agreement or even a Memorandum of Understanding.

Moreover, despite repeatedly raising bilateral issues involving its larger neighbour India prior to the visit, Imran could not mange to attract Russian leadership's attention on the same. In addition to it, a planned joint press conference was called off.

After openly sharing his feeling of excitement on visiting Moscow in the midst of conflict, Imran had to conclude the visit by expressing regret over the situation developing between Russia and Ukraine.

A communique issued after the meeting stated that PM Khan stressed that conflict was not in anyone's interest and that developing countries were always hardest hit economically in case of conflict.

The overall outcome was in stark contrast to the Pakistani leader's expectations as he was hoping to push for the construction of a long-delayed PakistanStream Gas Pipeline to be built in collaboration with Russian companies part from some small agreements.

The sequence of events left Imran Khan isolated and prone to attack from media, political circles in Pakistan and the international community.

Washington: US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Friday (local time) sanctioned Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and members of Russia's Security Council in response to Russia's "unjustified, unprovoked and premediated" invasion of Ukraine.

"These actions impose unprecedented diplomatic and economic costs on Russia and further isolate it from the global financial system and the international community," the US Department of the Treasury said in a statement.

According to the statement, Putin and Lavrov are directly responsible for Russia's unprovoked and unlawful further invasion of Ukraine, a democratic sovereign state.

Earlier in the press briefing, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki stated that the US will join the EU in sanctioning Putin and Lavrov.

"In addition, today the U.S. Department of State designated two additional Government of Russia (GoR) officials and members of Russia's Security Council directly responsible for the further invasion of Ukraine: Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, Sergei Shoigu, and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, First Deputy Minister of Defence, and General of the Army Valery Gerasimov," read the statement.

Treasury has previously designated eleven members of the Russian Security Council and will continue to impose costs on the ruling elite as Russia prosecutes this brutal war of choice, the statement said.

"Treasury is continuing to inflict costs on the Russian Federation and President Putin for their brutal and unprovoked assault on the people of Ukraine. As President Biden said yesterday, Putin rejected every good faith effort the United States and our allies and partners made to address our mutual security concerns through dialogue to avoid needless conflict and avert human suffering," said Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen.

"We are united with our international allies and partners to ensure Russia pays a severe economic and diplomatic price for its further invasion of Ukraine. If necessary, we are prepared to impose further costs on Russia for its appalling behaviour on the world stage," Yellen added.

NEW DELHI — Since Russian President Vladimir Putin unleashed a large-scale attack against Ukraine on Thursday, the Biden administration has sought to rally allies and partners to condemn Russian aggression and join in trade and financial sanctions.

One country that has conspicuously rebuffed Biden’s appeals is India, a rising Asian power that relies on Moscow for almost all its advanced weapons.

For years, India has juggled its close relations with Russia — an enduring legacy of the Cold War — with its fast-growing ties with the United States, which has envisioned India as a crucial partner in its long-term strategy to counter China’s rise.

But India’s balancing act is proving increasingly difficult this week as Russian tanks and fighters bear down on Kyiv in a war that has drawn a thick line between the West and Russia, with only China as Moscow’s major economic and diplomatic backer.

While Japan, Australia and the United States all unveiled new export bans against Russia on Thursday and Friday, India — the fourth leg of the grouping known as the Quad — demurred, highlighting a glaring fissure in one of the key American partnerships that Biden has pledged to repair and strengthen.

Facing pressure from both sides, India on Friday joined China and the United Arab Emirates in abstaining from a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have condemned the invasion. Russia vetoed the measure.

In remarks Thursday, Biden urged countries to take a stand against Putin, saying that “any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association.” The United States was pressing India about its stance toward Russia, Biden told reporters. “We haven’t resolved that completely,” he added.

Shortly after Biden spoke, the State Department said Secretary Antony Blinken held a call with his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, to discuss “the importance of a strong collective response to Russian aggression.” India issued only a terse acknowledgment that the call took place.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with Putin and called for “concerted efforts from all sides to return to the path of diplomatic negotiations,” according to a readout from the Indian government. Modi’s language diverged sharply from the Western characterization of the Russian attack as a one-sided, unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation.

Derek Grossman, a senior defence analyst at the Rand Corp. think tank, said the Quad grouping — a cornerstone of Biden’s Indo-Pacific strategy to counter China — “could easily fray.” In recent weeks, other Quad nations have condemned Moscow as Russian troops massed around Ukraine — but not India.

The Russian operation “is clearly breaking the rules-based order, which is whole reason the Quad got together in the first place,” Grossman said. “For India to continue to sit on the sidelines — that’s going to become increasingly an untenable position if they want to maintain good ties not just with the Quad but also Europe.”

Indian sympathies for Russia — and Russia’s support for India — reach back to the early decades of the Cold War, when Washington often sided with India’s archrival, Pakistan, over issues including the contested Kashmir region. In 1971, when India fought Pakistan over Bangladesh, the United States backed Pakistan in part because it was a crucial party to a plan by President Richard Nixon to secretly establish relations with China. In the ensuing years, Indian military imports from the Soviet Union soared, while at the diplomatic level, it maintained a stated policy of nonalignment.

Today, Russia has leased a nuclear submarine to India. Russian scientists are helping develop India’s hypersonic missile program. Russian T-90 tanks form the backbone of India’s ground forces, and Russian MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets are mainstays in its air force. The Indian navy’s flagship is an aircraft carrier — a “Kiev-class” — purchased from Russia.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russia is by far India’s largest arms supplier, accounting for 70 percent of India’s imports between 2011 and 2015 and roughly half between 2015 and 2020. India recently purchased Russian S-400 antiaircraft missiles, which could trigger U.S. sanctions.

As fighting erupted Thursday in Ukraine, Russian and Ukrainian diplomats in New Delhi presented duelling pitches. The ranking Russian envoy, Roman Babushkin, praised Modi’s “independent and balanced” approach and offered a reminder of what is at stake. “Russia is the only country which is sharing sophisticated technologies with India and defence cooperation between us is a strong factor for international peace and stability,” he told Indian media outlets. “We have big plans and we hope that our partnership will continue at the same level which we are enjoying today.”

The Ukrainian ambassador to India, Igor Polikha, told reporters that he is “deeply dissatisfied” with India’s position, which he attributed to its “special, privileged, strategic relation with Russia.” He pleaded for Modi’s help to restrain Putin at what he called “the moment of destiny.”

“I don’t know how many world leaders Putin may listen to, but the stature of Modi-ji makes me hopeful,” Polikha said, using an honorific for the Indian leader. “We are waiting, asking, pleading for the assistance of India.”

Meanwhile, India’s foreign policy circles remained deeply ambivalent about the course ahead. Even though maintaining neutrality angered Washington, it would be equally difficult for India to alienate Moscow now, said Sushant Singh, a fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, a think tank in New Delhi.

“No one else is going to give you a nuclear submarine,” he said. “Who else is going to sell India an aircraft carrier?”

And yet, one other realpolitik consideration could tip India’s hand, Singh added: India now considers China — which is increasingly embracing Russia diplomatically and purchasing more Russian energy and now wheat — to be its biggest threat and one that could be countered only with American help.

“India has never been caught in this kind of an either-or situation,” Singh said. “It’s the biggest diplomatic challenge since the Cold War.”

Others were more dismissive of the prospect of India joining the Western bloc.

“We owe answers to no one except ourselves,” D.B. Venkatesh Varma, who served as India’s ambassador to Moscow until last year, wrote in a column in the Indian Express. “Russia has not covered itself in glory. But that is no reason to doubt the merits of our long-standing relations with it — just as we held our noses and deepened our relations with the U.S. during its decade-long intervention in Iraq.”

Quetta: Two policemen were killed after a gunman opened fire on them in Pakistan's Quetta on Friday, local media reported citing officials.

A driver was also injured in the incident that took place near Quetta's Eastern Bypass, the Dawn newspaper reported citing Quetta Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Syed Fida Hassan.

According to CCTV footage, the gunman opened fire on police officials they ate at a local hotel. The killed policemen included an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) and a constable.

Terming the occurrence a "terrorist incident", Baluchistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo said that "destructive elements want to disrupt peace in the province", according to the publication.

Notably, in January alone, several terror incidents rocked Pakistan as major cities including Islamabad and Lahore were targeted. An Islamabad-based think tank, the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, recently published a report endorsing the fear that Pakistan has been slowly sliding into chaos and instability for the last couple of years.

Apart from the brewing terrorism in Baluchistan province, the Baloch are also against the Pakistani security forces as the region has registered thousands of disappearances of political activists, intellectuals, journalists, and students.

The Soviet-era OTR-21 Tochka close-range ballistic missile system was reportedly used by Ukraine to attack a Russian military airfield on 25 February

Ukraine reportedly attacked a Russian airbase on 25 February, marking the first time that Kyiv conducted an offensive military action outside of its national borders since Russia launched its renewed invasion of the country on 24 February.

The stated attack, the supposed aftermath of which was widely circulated on social media along with images of damaged and burning facilities and aircraft, saw Millerovo Air Base (AB) in Russia's Rostov region seemingly struck with multiple ballistic missiles fired from Ukraine.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Ukraine had not responded to a Janes request for conformation and comment at the time of publication. However, a senior Janes Russia and open-source intelligence (OSINT) analyst confirmed that the location shown in the aftermath images of the burning facility is Millerovo AB, some 20 km inside the Russian border with Ukraine.

According to reports, the base was hit by an undisclosed number of surface-launched OTR-21 Tochka (SS-21 ‘Scarab'/9M79) ballistic missiles, with imagery showing facilities and at least one Sukhoi Su-30SM ‘Flanker-H' combat aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) 31st Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment on fire.

As noted by Janes Weapons: Strategic, the Tochka is a close-range ballistic missile (CRBM), with its 9M79 missiles having a range of between 15 and 70 km. The 9M79-series missiles can be armed with unitary high-explosive blast fragmentation and submunition warheads. The Ukrainian Ground Forces is understood to have received or inherited 500 such missiles, although it is not known how many remain in its inventory.

Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh, Western Naval Commander

Nine Commanders-in-Chief from Army, Navy, Air Force and Andaman and Nicobar Command deliberated on aspects related to the command

NEW DELHI: A tri-services discussion on the modalities and structural framework on the creation of the Integrated Maritime Theatre Command (IMTC), one of the integrated theatre commands envisaged, was held under the aegis of Western Naval Command at Mumbai on February 24 and 25.

“This is yet another milestone towards building jointness and enhancing organisational synergy among the three Services,” the Navy said in a statement. A total of nine Commanders-in-Chief (C-in-C) from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), came together for a high-level meeting to discuss and deliberate on various aspects related to setting up the IMTC.

The meeting was chaired by Vice Adm Ajendra Bahadur Singh, Western Naval Commander who has been nominated as the lead C-in-C for the Study, the statement said. In addition, almost 50 senior officers from various Commands of the three Services, as well as from Headquarters, Integrated Defence Staff and Department of Military Affairs, also attended the meeting and provided inputs towards laying a strong foundation for the Theatre Command, the statement added.

Moscow: Russia has banned British airlines from landing at its airports or crossing its airspace, its state civil aviation regulator said on Friday.

The move follows London's ban on the flights of Russian flag carrier Aeroflot imposed in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"A restriction was introduced on the use of Russian airspace for flights of aircrafts owned, leased or operated by an organisation linked to or registered in the UK," the Rosaviatsia aviation authority said in a statement.

The ban took effect from 11:00 am Moscow time (0800 GMT), it said, and included flights transiting through Russian airspace.

Indian Navy extends a warm welcome to VPNS Quang Trung (016), a Gepard Class Frigate (Guided Missile) of Vietnamese People’s Navy (VPN) which arrived Visakhapatnam this morning to participate in the Multilateral Naval Exercise MILAN 2022.

VPN and Indian Navy regularly interact through bilateral exercises, port visits and training cooperation which has resulted in enhanced understanding, interoperability and trust between the two Navies.

Washington: US President Joe Biden on Friday (local time) said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will maintain its "open door" to those European states who share its values and who one day may seek to join our Alliance.

Biden's remarks came after he met with leaders from NATO Allies to discuss their shared commitment to collective defence and Transatlantic security, the White House said in a statement.

"As President Putin threatens the very foundations of international peace and security, NATO is once again demonstrating that it stands for freedom and democracy," Biden said.

He highlighted that the United States will defend "every inch of NATO territory".

Our commitment to Article 5 is ironclad. I have ordered the deployment of additional forces to augment our capabilities in Europe to support our NATO Allies, Biden said.

US President said that he welcomed the decision "to activate NATO's defensive plans and elements of the NATO Response Force to strengthen our collective posture as well as the commitments by our Allies to deploy additional land and air forces to the eastern flank and maritime forces from the High North to the Mediterranean."

"NATO is as united and resolute as it's ever been, and NATO will maintain its Open Door to those European states who share our values and who one day may seek to join our Alliance," Biden said.

After the NATO Summit, Biden spoke with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

"I spoke with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine. I commended the brave actions of the Ukrainian people who were fighting to defend their country. I also conveyed ongoing economic, humanitarian, and security support being provided by the United States as well as our continued efforts to rally other countries to provide similar assistance," Biden said.

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