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Modi and Putin’s Moscow Meeting: Strengthening Bonds Amid Global Tensions Despite Washington's efforts to woo Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin, Modi's recent visit to Moscow underscores the enduring ties between India and Russia.

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MOSCOW: NEW DELHI: Recently, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was honored at a state dinner hosted by President Biden and lauded by White House officials, who regard U.S.-India relations as “one of the most consequential relationships.” However, Modi’s visit to Moscow this week highlighted another significant relationship, as he warmly referred to Putin as “my dear friend.”

During Modi’s first visit to Russia since its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, images of him embracing Putin conveyed a strong message: India intends to maintain its deep ties with Russia, despite U.S. efforts to draw India closer. This visit also illustrated that Putin is not as isolated as some had hoped.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted photos of a children’s hospital in Kyiv hit by a Russian missile, criticizing the meeting. “It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day,” he wrote. During his visit, Modi addressed the Russia-Ukraine war directly.

In a summit aimed at deepening bilateral relations, Modi told Putin that the death of innocent children was both painful and terrifying, referencing the recent attack on a Kyiv hospital. Modi’s comments, broadcasted publicly, were a rare direct critique from a leader of a friendly nation.

Concluding his two-day visit, the two countries identified nine key areas for enhanced cooperation, from nuclear energy to medicine, with a goal to increase bilateral trade by over 50% to reach $100 billion by 2030.

Key Outcomes of Prime Minister Modi’s Official Visit to Russia

Program of India-Russia Cooperation in Trade, Economic, and Investment Spheres (2024-2029)

1. Trade and Investment Facilitation:
– Enhancing trade and joint investment projects between the Far East Region of Russia and India.

2. Climate Change and Low-Carbon Development:
– An MoU between India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development, focusing on low-cost technology research and exchange.

3. Geodesy, Cartography, and Spatial Data:
– An MoU between the Survey of India and Russia’s Federal Service for State Registration, promoting knowledge exchange and professional training.

4. Polar and Ocean Research:
– An MoU between India’s National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research and Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, facilitating joint research and data sharing.

5. Broadcasting Collaboration:
– An MoU between Prasar Bharati and Russia Today TV Channel, involving program exchanges and training in broadcasting.

6. Pharmaceutical Standards and Medicines:
– An MoU between Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission and Russia’s Scientific Centre for Expert Evaluation of Medicinal Products, aimed at ensuring high-quality medicines.

7. Arbitration Cooperation:
– A cooperation agreement between Indian International Arbitration Centre and Russia’s International Commercial Arbitration Court to facilitate commercial dispute settlements.

8. Investment Promotion:
– A Joint Investment Promotion Framework Agreement between Invest India and JSC “Management Company of Russian Direct Investment Fund,” promoting Russian investment in India.

9. Trade Promotion:
– An MoU between Trade Promotion Council of India and All Russia Public Organization “Business Russia.”

Modi’s remarks during the summit were particularly striking, as public criticism of Putin by leaders of friendly nations is rare. “Whether it is war, conflict, or a terrorist attack, any person who believes in humanity is pained when there is a loss of lives,” Modi stated. “But when innocent children are killed, the heart bleeds and that pain is very terrifying.”

Ukraine reported recovering fragments of a Russian Kh-101 cruise missile from the Kyiv children’s hospital attacked on Monday, which was part of a series of Russian assaults that killed 44 Ukrainians, including four children. The hospital strike killed two adults and wounded about 50 people, including eight children. Russia, however, claimed—without evidence—that a Ukrainian anti-missile system caused the strike.

Previously, Modi had criticized Russia’s actions in Ukraine when he told Putin in September 2022 that “today’s era is not an era of war.” Despite this, India has not condemned Russia’s invasion and has capitalized on buying discounted Russian oil amid Western sanctions.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra, accompanying Modi, mentioned plans to strengthen energy ties, potentially seeking deals with Rosneft and other Russian oil firms. The two nations also discussed increasing Russian coal sales to India and cooperation in developing the Northern Sea Route and space exploration.

Russia values its partnership with India, both economically and diplomatically, as a counterbalance to Western isolation attempts. Putin described their relationship as a “particularly privileged strategic partnership.” He thanked Modi for addressing the Ukrainian crisis and emphasized finding peaceful resolutions.

Modi responded, “Solutions are not possible on the battleground. Amidst guns, bullets, and bombs, peace talks cannot be successful. We have to find the path to peace only through talks.” While Putin did not visibly react to Modi’s remarks, the Kremlin noted that the leaders had covered their agenda in full, foregoing an additional round of talks.

Modi’s visit came at a sensitive time, coinciding with the Ukrainian hospital incident. As Modi shared images of him with Putin, Zelensky labeled it a “huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts.” The U.S. State Department expressed concerns about India’s relationship with Russia, and President Biden condemned the recent attacks on Ukraine as a reminder of Russia’s brutality.

Swasti Rao, an expert at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, noted that Modi aimed to project India as a credible mediator and to reinforce India’s opposition to violence while reminding Moscow of their valuable partnership grounded in international law.

Modi’s trip to Moscow, shortly after his third term inauguration, broke with the tradition of visiting South Asian neighbors first, highlighting the significance of India’s relationship with Russia.🇷🇺

-Dr. Shahid Siddiqui; X @shahidsiddiqui

 

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