India’s dependence on Russia for military hardware grew over decades partially because it did not receive any defence equipment from the United States and the other Western nations for decades, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in Canberra on Monday.

He subtly hit out at the United States for preferring Pakistan as a partner over India in the past.

Jaishankar turned the table on the United States, which pressed India hard to lessen its dependence on Russia for defence equipment, particularly over the past few months since President Vladimir Purin ordered the launch of “special military operations” in Ukraine.

“When you asked about the military equipment issue – we have as you know a substantial inventory of Soviet and Russian-origin weapons, and that inventory actually grew for a variety of reasons – you know, the merits of the weapon systems themselves, but also because for multiple decades, western countries did not supply weapons to India and, in fact, saw a military dictatorship next to us as the preferred partner,” the External Affairs Minister said.

He was addressing a joint news conference with Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong.

“We make judgements which are reflective of both our future interest as well as our current situation, and my sense is in terms of this current conflict, like every military conflict, there are learnings from it, and I am sure my very professional colleagues in the military would be studying it very carefully,” said Jaishankar, responding to another question on the possibility of New Delhi rethinking its defence relationship with Moscow, in view of the performance of Russia’s weapon systems in its conflict with Ukraine.

India’s traditional defence ties with Russia has been an irritant in its ties with the US. The spectre of the US CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) sanctions looms large over India for its October 2018 deal to procure five S-400 air defence systems from Russia at an estimated cost of nearly Rs 39,000 crore. India overlooked the US frowns and inking an agreement with Russia to extend bilateral military technical cooperation and moving to expand defence cooperation between the two nations, citing challenges posed to its security by “unprovoked aggression” by China.

The government's refusal to toe the Biden Administration’s line on Russia-Ukraine conflict added to the strains in India-US relations. India abstained from voting on several US-backed resolutions at the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Wong reiterated Australia's condemnation of Russia's “illegal and immoral invasion” of Ukraine. “We've expressed publicly that the annexation, so‑called sham annexations, or sham referenda and the annexations are illegal, and we remain of the view that Russia's invasion is illegal,” the Australian Foreign Minister added. She also referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “this is not the era of war” statement during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Samarkand in Uzbekistan last month. She said that Australia welcomed the message the Prime Minister of India had delivered to the Russian President.

Jaishankar, however, declined to reveal how India would vote during the forthcoming debate at the United Nations General Assembly on Russia’s annexation of territories in Ukraine.