Washington: US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price on Wednesday gave clear indications of US optimism that in the event of a Russian attack on Ukraine, India would stand by the US.
The US believes that as a country committed to a rules-based international order, India will stand by its side in case of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Despite reports of a partial and symbolic Russian troops pull out, the Biden administration thinks that an attack by Russia is imminent with Moscow adding, as opposed to reducing, 7,000 troops to Ukraine's border in recent days.
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price on Wednesday recalled the recent discussion at the Quad – which includes Australia, India, Japan and the US - ministerial in Melbourne on Russia an Ukraine.
Price said there was a 'strong consensus' in that meeting that there needs to be a diplomatic and peaceful resolution to the Ukraine crisis.
One of the core tenants of the Quad is to reinforce the rules-based international order. And that is a rules-based order that applies equally in the Indo-Pacific as it does in Europe, as it does anywhere else.
It was in this context, that the US side expressed its hope about India in response to a question in which Price said "We know that our Indian partners are committed to that rules-based international order. There are any number of tenets in that order. One of them is that borders cannot be redrawn by force".
"That, large countries cannot bully small countries. That only the people of a particular country can be in a position to choose their foreign policy, their partnerships, their alliances, their associations. Those are principles that apply equally in the Indo-Pacific as they do in Europe," he said in an apparent reference to the aggressive behaviour by China against its neighbours, including India.
In October 2018, India had signed a 5 billion Dollar-deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems, despite a warning from the Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanctions.
According to a senior US administration official, the West detected that Russia had increased its force near Ukraine border by 7,000 troops, with some arriving as recently as on Wednesday, contrary to Moscow's claims of withdrawal.
"To be very, very clear, we have not seen that. In fact, we have seen the opposite in recent weeks and even in recent days. More Russian forces, not fewer, are at the border and they are moving concerningly into fighting positions. This is cause for profound concern. At the same time, and as we've warned previously, over the past several weeks we've also seen Russian officials and Russian media plant numerous stories in the press," Price said.
The state department spokesperson alleged that any one of these could be elevated to serve as a pretext for an invasion.
"This could happen, we are concerned, at any time and the world should be ready for it. It could involve claims about Ukrainian military activity in the Donbas, false claims of US or NATO activities on land at sea or air, even claims of Ukrainian or NATO incursions into Russian territory," he said.
(Based on PTI feed with minor edits)