India’s Modi arrives in Moscow for talks with Putin

India's Modi arrives in Moscow for talks with Putin
India's Modi arrives in Moscow for talks with Putin

Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi is on a two-day visit to Moscow which will include meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Relations between the two powers are at a key juncture.

Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi landed in Moscow in Monday at the start of a two-day visit to the Russian capital during which he will meet with President Vladimir Putin, according to the TASS state news agency.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a news briefing that the two leaders would meet informally on Monday evening with the opportunity to talk “with a free agenda one-on-one.”

The trip is Modi’s first to Russia since 2019, when he met Putin in the far-eastern city of Vladivostok, although the pair did meet at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan in September 2022, seven months into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Putin visited New Delhi in 2021. 

“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,” said Modi in a statement. 

Russia, India and China: complex relationships

Russia’s war in Ukraine has complicated relations between Moscow and New Delhi, who have traditionally enjoyed strong ties dating back to the Cold War.

While India has become an even more important partner for Russia amid its increasing diplomatic and economic isolation, so has China, one of India’s major regional rivals. Modi was conspicuous by his absence from last week’s Chinese-led SCO summit in Kazakhstan.

“Russia’s relations with China have been a matter of some concern for India in the context of Chinese increased assertiveness in the region,” Bala Venkatesh Verma, a former Indian ambassador to Russia, explained to the Associated Press news agency.

Ukraine’s Western partners also urge Modi’s government to denounce Russia over Ukraine, something India has avoided doing in public. 

Trade imbalance

Russia is an increasingly important trading partner for India, with Indian Foreign Minister Vinay Mohan Kwatra telling reporters ahead of Modi’s trip to Moscow that trade between the two powers is set to be worth close to $65 billion dollars for the 2023-24 financial year.

However, that trade balance is tipped heavily in Russia’s favor, with Indian purchases accounting for around $60 billion of the total. Top Indian imports from Russia include coal, fertilizer, vegetable oil and precious metals, but New Delhi also purchases over 40% of its oil and 60% of its armaments from Moscow.

Supplies of Russian weapons have logically become strained as Putin continues his assault against Ukraine, a war which India – like China – has neither condemned nor condoned, maintaining a neutral stance.

And that despite dozens of Indian citizens reportedly having been misled into joining the Russian army and being sent to fight in Ukraine – another top priority for Modi’s trip, according to Indian officials.

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