India’s Modi in Russia, asserts two sides seek stable, peaceful region

India's Modi in Russia, asserts two sides seek stable, peaceful region

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Russia to discuss the promotion of mutual relations, which have been complicated since Russia’s war in Ukraine and its rapprochement with India’s rival China.

During his two-day visit, the first since the beginning of the Ukraine war, Modi is set to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin about ways to continue New Delhi’s close relations with Moscow, an important trading partner and major defense supplier for India.

Modi said, “I look forward to reviewing all aspects of bilateral cooperation with my friend President Vladimir Putin and sharing perspectives on various regional and global issues. We seek to play a supportive role for a peaceful and stable region.”

Kremlin on Monday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India’s highly-anticipated and comprehensive visit to Moscow will be watched by the West with “jealousy”.

The two leaders’ last meeting in Russia was in 2019, in the far eastern port of Vladivostok. They also met in person at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in September 2022 in Uzbekistan.

Russia and India have maintained strong ties since the Cold War. New Delhi’s importance as a key trading partner for Moscow has grown since the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

After the imposition of sanctions by the United States and its allies that shut most Western markets off to Russian exports, China and India have turned into key buyers of Russian oil. India now gets more than 40% of its oil imports from Russia.

Under Modi’s leadership, India has refrained from making any comment in condemnation of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine while emphasizing the need to settle tensions through peaceful channels and negotiations.

However, the relationship between Russia and India has become fraught after Moscow started developing closer ties with New Delhi’s main rival, China.

The Indian prime minister stayed away last week from the most recent SCO summit in Kazakhstan.

Russia has also been a major military supplier to India but New Delhi diversified its defense procurements after the fighting in Ukraine had an impact on Moscow’s supply line.

Russia launched its special military operation in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, over the perceived threat of the ex-Soviet republic joining US-led NATO.

Since then, the United States and Ukraine’s other allies have sent Kiev tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons, including rocket systems, drones, armored vehicles, tanks, and communication systems.

Western countries have also imposed a slew of economic sanctions on Moscow. The Kremlin has said the sanctions and the Western military assistance will only prolong the war.

The talks between the Indian and Russian leaders will also focus on boosting trade, particularly intentions to develop a maritime corridor between India’s major port of Chennai and Vladivostok, the gateway to Russia’s Far East.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra told reporters on Friday that trade between the two countries has seen a sharp increase, touching close to $65 billion in the 2023-24 financial year, due to strong energy cooperation.

He said imports from Russia reached $60 billion and exports from India $4 billion in the 2023-24 financial year.

He noted that India seeks to correct the trade imbalance with Russia by increasing its exports. India mainly exports drugs and pharmaceutical products, telecom instruments, iron and steel, marine products and machinery to Russia.

Its top imports from Russia include crude oil and petroleum products, coal and coke, pearls, precious and semi-precious stones, fertilizer, vegetable oil, gold and silver.

Modi to co-chair 22nd Russia-India Annual Summit with Putin

In a post on its X account, Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik said the Indian prime minister is scheduled to co-chair the 22nd Russia-India Annual Summit with the Russian president during his two-day visit.

“Modi will attend a private dinner hosted by Putin on Monday afternoon… Core to the visit will be bilateral talks in ‘restricted’ and broader, delegation-level format,” it said.

It noted that bilateral talks will focus on issues including defense and energy security, ties within groups like BRICS, SCO, East Asia Summit (EAS) and the UN, bilateral trade, sustainable payment mechanisms amid a de-dollarization drive as well as investment in energy, banking, railways and steel.

Modi and Putin will also discuss nuclear energy, the Russia-India Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS), expansion of India’s maritime outreach (including to the Arctic), balance of India’s logistics agreements with Quad countries, and strengthening Russia’s Indo-Pacific presence, it wrote.

It noted that transport projects, including the International North-South Transport Corridor and Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor, science and technology, education, and culture are among other issues on the agenda of the talks.

The post also said Moscow and New Delhi plan mutual visa-free travel by the end of 2024.


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