WP: Modi bear-hugs Putin in Moscow, marking deep ties between Russia and India

12:24 11.07.2024 •

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin embrace at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on Monday.
Photo: Sputnik/Kremlin

Despite Washington’s efforts to woo Prime Minister Narendra Modi and isolate President Vladimir Putin, the visit shows continuing close relations between their countries, ‘The Washington Post’ writes.

As Modi makes his first visit to Russia since  2022, the images emerging from Moscow of Modi wrapping the Russian president in a hug send a clear signal that the South Asian giant will maintain deep ties with Russia despite the Biden administration’s efforts to woo its prime minister. It also shows that Putin is not as isolated as the White House has hoped.

The trip to Moscow, which overlapped with three days of NATO meetings in Washington, was met with consternation in Washington and Kyiv. Asked about the Modi-Putin meeting, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters at a press briefing: “We have made quite clear directly with India our concerns about their relationship with Russia.”

For Modi, Russia remains a crucial source of weaponry and energy and space technology that India sees as indispensable in becoming a great power. Analysts also say India does not want Russia to grow overly dependent upon India’s rival neighbor, China.

Putin’s war effort, meanwhile, has been funded in significant part by Indian purchases of Russian oil products, which have increased almost 20-fold since 2021. Russia, likewise, hopes India will keep some distance from the United States, and Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov mocked the West this week for feeling “jealous” about Russia-India ties.

The Moscow meeting appeared to deepen what the two countries call a “special and privileged strategic relationship.” As Modi wrapped up his visit on Tuesday evening, Indian and Russian officials announced their ambition to expand annual trade volumes to $100 billion by 2030 and sign long-term agreements on oil and gas supplies while diversifying trade beyond the energy sector.

The two countries signed agreements to collaborate on polar research and, in a speech to the Indian diaspora in Moscow, Modi also announced the opening of new consulates in Kazan and Yekaterinburg to enhance ties between the two peoples.

“India and Russia are walking shoulder-and-shoulder and infusing new energy into global prosperity,” Modi said in his speech. “Any mention of Russia reminds every Indian of an ally that has been with us through good times and bad, as a trusted friend of India.”

Modi’s trip to Moscow, coming less than a month after he was sworn in for a third term, broke with the Indian tradition of prime ministers visiting South Asian neighbors first after an election. But it demonstrated Modi’s global aspirations and gave him a chance to show Putin that India has not lost its autonomy even though it is receiving new investments, technologies and weaponry from the Biden administration, Indian analysts say.

“The decision to go early in the term is a signal that India remains invested in the Russia relationship — that is part and parcel of India’s foreign policy, cutting across party lines,” said Pankaj Saran, a former Indian ambassador to Russia and deputy national security adviser who continues to advise the Indian government.

Even though the India-Russia relationship was cemented during the Cold War, the energy and defense ties between Russia and India — the world’s largest weapons buyer and the No. 3 importer of oil — have continued to thrive. Indian imports of Russian crude rose from $2.5 billion in 2021, before the invasion of Ukraine, to $46.5 billion in 2023, according to Indian Commerce Ministry data. Last year, only China purchased more Russian crude.

And while U.S. officials have publicly and privately urged India to wean itself off Russian weapons, the Russian state-owned arms giant Rostec announced last week that it would manufacture armor-piercing tank rounds inside India to supply India’s army.


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