MOSCOW (Agencies): India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Russia on Monday for his first visit to the country since Moscow began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a sign that the two nations remain close despite the Kremlin’s deepening dependence on China.

During his two-day visit, Modi is expected to attend a private dinner hosted by Vladimir Putin and hold talks with the Russian president, according to India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal.

The summit will “provide an opportunity to the two leaders to review the whole range of bilateral issues,” Jaiswal told reporters in New Delhi last week, adding that Modi and Putin will “also share perspectives on regional and global developments of mutual interest.”

India remains heavily reliant on the Kremlin for its military equipment and has ramped up purchases of discounted Russian crude oil, giving Putin’s nation a major financial lifeline as it faces isolation from the West.

Trade between the two countries was worth nearly $65 billion in 2023-24, primarily due to strong energy cooperation, but most of that total flowed toward Russia, Jaiswal said.

Reducing the trade imbalance would be a “matter of priority” in Modi’s discussions with Putin, he added.

Modi last met with Putin on the sidelines of the 2022 SCO meeting in Uzbekistan, when he told the Russian leader: “Now is not the time for war.”

But while India has called for a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine and restoration of peace, it has also abstained from all resolutions on Ukraine at the United Nations and stopped short of condemning Russia’s invasion.

Modi’s visit to Russia is also widely seen as the latest dent in efforts by Western leaders to cast Putin aside.

Despite undermining Western sanctions by purchasing large quantities of Russian oil, New Delhi has remained close with the United States, a key partner as both countries share concerns over China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

By Media

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