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Modi-Putin Meeting: Strengthening Strategic Ties Amid Western Disapproval

The last time Putin welcomed Modi in Russia was in 2019. In September 2022, they met again at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan. Since Modi became prime minister, they have met 16 times. How have relations between Russia and India changed during this time?

Modi Putin Meeting: Strengthening Strategic Ties Amid Western Disapproval AJR
First Published Jul 8, 2024, 10:59 PM IST

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that strengthening ties between India and Russia will greatly benefit the people of both nations. On Monday, July 8, he said:

"Landed in Moscow. Looking forward to further deepening the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between our nations, especially in futuristic areas of cooperation. Stronger ties between our nations will greatly benefit our people,"Modi said on X.

Modi is visiting Moscow from July 8-9 to co-chair the 22nd Russia-India Annual Summit with President Vladimir Putin. This visit marks Modi’s first official trip since being re-elected as India's prime minister in June.

The last time Putin welcomed Modi in Russia was in 2019. In September 2022, they met again at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan. Since Modi became prime minister, they have met 16 times. How have relations between Russia and India changed during this time?

Despite Western calls for India to join anti-Russia sanctions, trade between India and Russia surged in 2023. Here are some key points:

● Trade turnover between India and Russia hit a record $65 billion in 2023, a 1.8 times increase from 2022.

● Russian exports to India reached $60.9 billion, up 79.1 percent.

● Indian exports to Russia increased to $4.1 billion, up 41.4 percent.

● Russia is now India's fourth-largest trading partner, following the US, China, and the UAE.

● Russia is India's second-largest source of imported goods, after China.

● India's crude oil imports from Russia rose to 1.97 million barrels per day in June, making up about 40 percent of India's oil imports. This makes India the largest buyer of Russia's seaborne crude, despite Western shipping sanctions.

India and Russia also work closely together in various international forums, such as the UN, G20, BRICS, and SCO. In 2023, India’s presidency of the G20 and SCO led to more frequent communications between officials from both countries.

● The two countries are enhancing defense cooperation under the Agreement on the Program for Military Technical Cooperation for 2021-2031.

● Russia remains India's largest arms supplier.

Before his July 8-9 visit to Russia, Modi praised the "special and privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia." 

According to Indian press reports and Russian media Sputnik, "Modi’s visit to Russia highlights the importance of India-Russia ties, especially in energy and defense."

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Russian media that the West is "jealous" of the Modi-Putin Summit and will be "closely watching" the Russia-India leadership talks.

India-Russia Summit: Standing Strong Amid Western Criticism

In India, there is outrage over comments from some Western commentators who have criticized the Russia-India relationship ahead of the 22nd Annual Summit, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin will co-chair at the Kremlin on Tuesday, July 9.

Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at RAND Corporation who specializes in Indo-Pacific security issues, upset many Indian commentators by describing the upcoming meeting between Modi and Putin as "disgraceful," according to Russian media reports.

Grossman noted that the Modi-Putin Summit, the first since December 2021, coincides with a three-day meeting in Washington DC where NATO allies will discuss increasing financial and military support for Ukraine.

Grossman, quoting a news article, said that Modi's visit to Russia undermines the West's efforts to portray Putin as a "pariah."

"Pariah" means an outcast or someone who is rejected and avoided by others.

NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that leaders from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea will be in Washington on Tuesday  9th July, to seek more support for Ukraine in the Indo-Pacific region.

Grossman's remarks show the frustration in Western capitals about their inability to "isolate" Russia globally.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra firmly denied that Modi's visit aimed to send a strategic message to any other country.

"Our relationship with Russia is viewed solely within the context of our bilateral ties," Kwatra said during a special briefing in New Delhi on Friday, July 5th.

Modi-Putin Meeting: Unfazed by Biased and Hypocritical Criticism

Despite New Delhi's reassurances, Western experts have criticized the Russia-India cooperation.

Rajiv Bhatia, a Distinguished Fellow at the Indian think tank Gateway House and a former Indian Ambassador, told Sputnik that PM Modi's visit to Russia holds "deep bilateral, regional, and global significance."

"Calling it 'disgraceful' shows ignorance, hypocrisy, and bias. Such comments should be ignored," Bhatia said.

He emphasized that Russia and India have a "vital strategic partnership" and expressed confidence that the upcoming summit would further "strengthen" this relationship.

Major General (retired) Shashi Bhushan Asthana, Director of the New Delhi-based think tank United Service Institution (USI) of India, shared similar views. He told Sputnik that the official visit should be seen purely in a "bilateral context."

"There is an established mechanism for the leaders of Russia and India to meet annually. This visit is not related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict," Asthana said, noting that the bilateral relationship has been a "geopolitical constant that has stood the test of time."

He emphasized that the strategic relationship now includes many areas such as trade, energy, defense, civil nuclear cooperation, connectivity, and payments, among others.

Reacting to the negative comments from Western experts, Asthana called them "misplaced."

He also noted that Russia did not criticize when the Indian Prime Minister visited Washington last June.

"India is not Ukraine, which needs US approval for sovereign decisions, and Indian foreign policy is not controlled by any other country," Asthana said, directly addressing Grossman's remarks.

(The author of this article is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany. You can reach him at:

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