US Confirms Obama Visit to Delhi Despite Putin, Aksyonov, Business Deals Hiccups

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

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Washington, DC – The United States played its cards diplomatically on the recent visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to India, where Russia signed a lucrative contract to build at least 12 new nuclear reactors among other business deals while the Indo-US nuclear cooperation deal is hibernating for lack of action on both sides.

Replying to a question from India America Today at the daily State Department briefing, Jen Psaki, the State Department spokesperson said, “We’ve seen the reports regarding Indian business signing contract – Indian businesses signing contracts with Russian businesses. We continue to urge all countries not to conduct business as usual with Russia. We continue to monitor it, but we haven’t looked at all the specifics of the contracts, for obvious reasons.”

After the visit of Putin, the two countries jointly announced agreements in the field of energy and defense, including a plan to manufacture advanced Russian military helicopters in India, and the possibility of exporting them to other countries; uranium mining; producing nuclear fuel and handling nuclear waster but to a discerning eye, those reflected Russia’s need for cementing alliances as the Western sanctions bite over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Another major sticking point was identification of Sergey Aksyonov, Head of the Republic of Crimea, in the delegation accompanying President Putin and although it raised many eyebrows and an angry reaction from Ukrainian President, Washington played it soft in the light of developing good relations with Delhi.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on a visit to Australia reacted angrily to reports of Aksyonov’s visit with Putin to India, saying, ““The Indian position doesn’t help, it doesn’t save Mr Aksyanov. He is a criminal, it’s very simple. He has a criminal background and no doubt he has a criminal future.”

“India doesn’t support the actions of Russia and the actions – their intervention into Ukraine. They’ve been pretty outspoken about that as well,” Psaki, however, told journalists on Friday. “We are troubled by reports that the delegation accompanying Putin may have included Sergiy Aksyonov,” Psaki had said a day earlier on the subject but on Friday she even refused to confirm if Aksyonov was in the delegation or not.

Answering a question on his presence, Psaki said, “I think there have been a range of reports, so I would point you to that. I don’t have any US Government confirmation. We’re obviously not in on the trip with them.”

Aksyonov, leader of Crimea which in March this year had acceded to the Russian Federation from Ukraine, was on his first visit abroad seeking to woo Indian investments.

US President Barack Obama has accepted the invitation to be the chief guest at the Indian Republic Day festivities on January 26 and will become the first US president to do so.

Psaki was clear that in the light of Putin’s visit along with Crimean leader Aksyonov, there will not be any change in the plans of President Obama’s upcoming visit next month to India. Confirming no change, she told journalists, “No. India remains an important partner. Obviously, our economic relationship is a big part of what we continue to work on.”

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