Washington: US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday discussed the “destabilising impacts” of Russia’s war against Ukraine, with a particular focus on global food supply, the White House said.

The leaders held a virtual meeting in the midst of some disquiet in Washington over India’s position on the Ukraine crisis as well as its decision to procure discounted Russian oil.

“The two leaders also discussed the destabilising impacts of Russia’s war against Ukraine, with a particular focus on global food supply,” the White House said in a readout of the virtual call between the two leaders.

Biden and Modi looked forward to meeting in person later this spring, in Tokyo, for the Quad summit, said the White House.

Organised at the initiative of Biden, the call lasted for about an hour. Biden and Modi spoke to inaugurate the fourth US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, the readout said.

“Together, they committed to strengthening the US-India relationship through cooperation on clean energy, technology and military cooperation, and expanded economic and people-to-people ties, the readout said.

“They also committed to continue cooperation bilaterally and multilaterally on ending the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthening global health security, advancing global food security, and ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific, said the White House.

The two leaders emphasised their shared commitment, as leaders of the world’s largest democracies, to respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, the readout said in the backdrop of China’s rising military manoeuvring in the region.

China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.

China is also engaged in a standoff with India in eastern Ladakh that started in May 2020.

In New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said that the two leaders had an extensive exchange of views on several regional and global issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, global economic recovery, climate action, recent developments in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region, and the situation in Ukraine.

According to a senior Biden administration official, Modi took the opportunity to share his views in a pretty candid way about what’s going on.

“We know that India has concerns about the link between Russia and China. India, of course is facing a very tough situation along the Line of Actual Control,” said the official, adding that when India sees the ties between China and Russia, that’s obviously going to impact their thinking.

The Modi-Biden virtual meeting lasted for about an hour. During the course of the meeting, the official said the two leaders had “a very candid conversation” and they discussed a range of bilateral and global issues.

“The meeting was warm and productive. They covered a lot of ground. The leaders were able to talk about joint global efforts in the COVID-19 pandemic. They talked about the climate. They talked about strengthening the global economy and they talked about upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific, including developing the Indo-Pacific economic framework and infrastructure, the official said.

Biden also took the opportunity to continue the close consultations that the US is having with India at a number of different levels of government and also Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and how the two countries are partnering and mitigating the destabilising impacts on global food supply and other commodities markets.

Responding to a question, the official said that both Prime Minister Modi and President Biden shared their views on Ukraine.

“The two leaders covered the whole range of issues related to Russia and Ukraine. It was a very candid conversation. I think you will have seen even Prime Minister Modi’s remarks at the top he talks about it as well. There were very direct conversations,” the official said. 

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