Modi hugs Putin on first Russia visit since Ukraine offensive

India’s Modi hugs Putin on first Russia visit since Ukraine offensive

/ 01:10 PM July 09, 2024

India's Modi hugs Putin on first Russia visit since Ukraine offensive

In this pool photograph distributed by the Russian state agency Sputnik, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi embrace each other during an informal meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow, on July 8, 2024. Agence France-Presse

MOSCOW — Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew into Moscow on Monday and warmly hugged President Vladimir Putin on a visit that treads a fine line between maintaining a longstanding relationship with Moscow and courting closer Western security ties.

The visit is Modi’s first since Russia launched its campaign in Ukraine and since he was returned to power last month as leader of the world’s most populous country.

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After meeting Moscow’s Indian community, Modi had an informal meeting with Putin at his residence at Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow, where the leaders drank tea on a terrace, rode in a golf cart together and visited stables.

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The Indian leader told Putin it was a “moment of joy” to visit and thanked him for planning “that we chit-chat here this evening”.

“Looking forward to our talks tomorrow as well, which will surely go a long way in further cementing the bonds of friendship between India and Russia,” Modi later wrote on X, posting a photo of the leaders hugging.

Moscow remains a key supplier of cut-price oil and weapons to India, but the Kremlin’s isolation from the West and blooming friendship with Beijing have impacted its time-honored partnership with New Delhi.

READ: What a third term for India’s Modi means for the world

Western powers have in recent years also cultivated ties with India as a bulwark against China and its growing influence in the Asia-Pacific, while pressuring it to distance itself from Russia.

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Modi last visited Russia in 2019 and hosted Putin in New Delhi two years later, weeks before Russia began its offensive against Ukraine.

India has shied away from explicit condemnation of Russia ever since and has abstained on United Nations resolutions censuring Moscow.

But Russia’s fight with Ukraine has also had a human cost for India.

New Delhi said in February that it was pushing the Kremlin to send back some of its citizens who had signed up for “support jobs” with the Russian military, following reports some were killed after being forced to fight in Ukraine.

The United States on Monday urged Modi to make clear in his talks with Putin that “any resolution to the conflict in Ukraine must… be one that respects the UN Charter with respect to Ukraine’s territorial integrity”.

Moscow’s deepening ties with China have also been a cause for concern.

Washington and the European Union accuse China of selling components and equipment that have strengthened Russia’s military industry — allegations that Beijing denies.

China and India are intense rivals competing for strategic influence across South Asia.

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India is part of the so-called Quad grouping with the US, Japan and Australia that positions itself against China’s growing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region.

TAGS: Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin

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