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India's Modi arrives in Moscow for talks with Putin

July 8, 2024

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a two-day visit to Moscow, which will include meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The visit comes as India has become a more important partner for Moscow.

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Russia President Vladimir Putin shake hands during an informal meeting at Novo-Ogarevo state residence, outside Moscow, Russia, Monday July 8, 2024.
Putin received Modi at his Novo-Ogarevo state residence outside MoscowImage: Sergei Bobylev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo/AP/picture alliance

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Moscow in Monday for a two-day visit that includes talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin gave Modi a tour of his residence, Novo-Ogaryovo, near Moscow ahead of official talks on Tuesday. 

The Kremlin leader greeted Modi as his "dear friend" and said he was "very happy" to see him, according to a report by Russia's TASS state news agency. 

"Our official talks are tomorrow, while today in this comfortable, cozy setting we can probably discuss the same issues, but unofficially," TASS reported Putin as saying.

Putin drove the Indian prime minister around the grounds of Novo-Ogaryovo in a motorized cart and showed him his stables with horses. 

The two also watched a horse show with performers in national Russian dress.

Putin (R) takes Modi for a ride in a electric golf cart at Novo-Ogaryovo.
Putin (R) takes Modi for a ride in an electric golf cart at Novo-OgaryovoImage: Sergei Bobylev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP/picture alliance

Modi shared images from the talks and well-wishes in both English and Russian online afterwards. 

"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," he wrote.

Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had 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."

A state banquet was also scheduled for Monday evening.

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. 

India buys oil and arms from Russia

Russia is an increasingly important trading partner for India, with Indian Foreign Secretary 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, mainly driven by Indian purchases of Russian crude oil. 

New Delhi purchases over 40% of its oil and 60% of its armaments from Moscow. Other top Indian imports from Russia include coal, fertilizer, vegetable oil and precious metals.

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.

Reports of dozens of Indian citizens signing up for "support jobs" in Russia's army, only to find themselves in or near the fighting in Ukraine did prompt critical comments from India's Foreign Ministry last week and an appeal to return them. India's government has said it believes four of its citizens have died in Ukraine. 

India's economy reaps benefits from Russian oil imports

mf/lo (AP, AFP, Reuters)