Washington: The US on Wednesday termed India as an essential partner for its shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and highlighted that regardless of India-Russia historical ties, the US is a "partner of choice for India now."

A day after US President Joe Biden's comment that India is an exception among the QUAD members with its "somewhat shaky" response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price stressed that Indo-Pacific is at the heart of QUAD's policy and India holds an important place in realizing this shared vision.

Responding to ANI's question on whether or not all QUAD partners are in sync with India's historic relationship with Russia, Price stressed "We are a partner in India when it comes to shared interests. When it comes to the values we share in a free and open Indo-Pacific and we've invested in that relationship in terms of our defence and security. So historical relationships notwithstanding, we are a partner of choice for India now, as are many of our partners and allies around the World."

"Let me say in terms of India's place in the QUAD in terms of our relationship with India... India is an essential partner for us in realizing our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific that is really at the heart of the QUAD's policy." Price added.

These remarks by Price comes at a time when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a virtual summit said that Australia understands New Delhi's position on the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

Addressing the press briefing, the US state department spokesperson referred to US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland's recent visit to India who met with her Indian counterparts in Delhi. Price said that the undersecretary was vocal about the historic relationship and defence relationship between India and Russia at a time when the US was not prepared to have that kind of relationship.

Price said " Those times have changed. They changed in terms of our (US) willingness and ability to be a strong defence and security partner of India."

"This is a bilateral relationship that has deepened in a number of ways over the past 25 years or so this has also happened on a bipartisan basis. It is a legacy in large part of the George W. Bush administration where we have seen this bilateral relationship between the United States and India have evolved and changed for the better and deepened in a number of ways including our defence and security relationship. So the fact is that we are a partner of India now," he said.

At a virtual Quad conference earlier this month, leaders of Australia, Japan and the US denounced Russia's invasion. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated "the need to return to a path of dialogue and diplomacy."

Replying to a question whether Biden administration has made up a decision on whether to apply or waive sanctions under CAATSA, vis-a-vis the S-400, Price mentioned that he does not have any updates and that the US continue to work with the Congress and our Indian partners.