Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 21 upon his arrival in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on a one-day trip.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday that the two leaders discussed various important issues, including ways to strengthen bilateral ties, the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the future of BRICS (an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). However, the main purpose of the Indian PM’s visit was to discuss the possible impact of US sanctions on India-Russia defence co-operation.
As Prime Minister Modi’s visit comes against the backdrop of the US imposing sanctions against Russia, the visiting leader informed President Putin that New Delhi is constantly trying to convince Washington to exclude India from the provisions of ‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’ (CAATSA).
Modi with Putin in Sochi
Since 2016, the Indo-Russian relation has been going through a rough patch. During this period, Pakistan strengthened ties with Russia, thus, putting India under tremendous diplomatic pressure. The Indian foreign policy experts believe that China has played an important role in bringing Pakistan closer to Russia. The changing political landscape in South Asia prompted PM Modi to hold an ‘urgent’ meeting with the Russian president in Sochi.
During the meeting, the Indian premier underscored close bilateral ties, saying: “Russia is India’s old-time friend. We share long-standing historical ties, and Mr President is my personal friend and a friend of India.” He told the Russian strongman: “For the past four years, you and I stood side by side in the bilateral format and on the international stage… I am very glad that it was so.”
The visiting PM invoked former Indian Premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1998-2004) several times in his opening remarks during his talks with President Putin in order to underline the strong bond between the two “strategic partners“. Modi stressed: “At that time, you had praised the civilisation of India and Russia, and strong democracy, lively democracy to define our relations.” He quoted Vajpayee as saying (during Putin’s visit to India in 2000): “Being a friend of Russia for a long time, we want to see Russia as a strong and confident country having an important role in the multi-polar world.”
Meanwhile, the visiting PM assured his host that India would acquire five S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile systems – worth approximately USD 5.5 billion – from Russia. At the same time, he admitted that the deal could face rough weather under the new US sanctions. Modi also expressed serious concern over the US sanctions against Iran, saying that the move could affect India’s trade ties with the West Asian nation and development of the ‘strategically important’ Chabahar port.
S-400 missile systems
Later, Chief of India’s National Security Advisory Board P S Raghavan explained that the US complicated the situation for India by introducing the CAATSA. “The primary purpose of Modi’s Russia trip was to discuss the evolving geopolitical situation and to understand each other’s perspective – to be able to see how we can both deal with situations in common interest,” stressed the former Indian envoy to Moscow.
American President Donald Trump has made it clear that any country – which will purchase high-tech or large-scale arms and military equipment from Russia – will have to face sanctions. President Trump’s announcement has created trouble for India because the South Asian nation is heavily dependent on the US when it comes to the security of South and Southwest Asia. Moreover, huge economic and commercial interests are involved in the Indo-US relationship. So, it becomes difficult for India to ignore the US’ warning and to acquire defence equipment from Russia. As a result, India’s traditional ‘balancing diplomacy’ faces a serious challenge. However, India is ready to overcome the challenge, as PM Modi’s Russia visit to meet Putin shows how New Delhi has redefined its foreign policy with ‘informal’ meets.
Ahead of PM Modi’s departure for New Delhi, President Putin assured his guest that Kremlin would see whether Washington agrees to exclude India from the CAATSA provisions.
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