By travelling to Delhi for his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Vladimir Putin has sent out a strong signal that Russia’s ties with India are accorded high priority by Moscow. This is only the second time since the pandemic that President Vladimir Putin has stepped out of the country. The first was to Geneva in June for a conversation with US President Joe Biden. By coming to Delhi, Putin has sent out a strong diplomatic message that in a world of flux, relations with India remain a priority for Moscow. Never mind that Russia and China are now close partners and that India’s relations with the US are growing warmer by the day. Despite all the changes, a constant is the centrality of India-Russia ties for both nations. The Modi-Putin summit is slated for later this afternoon.
President Putin has invested time and energy on relations with India since 2000, when the strategic partnership was announced. In the early years the emphasis was basically on counter terrorism as Ambassador Ashoke Mukerji, India’s former envoy to the UN and to several central Asian countries pointed out. He was also the number two in Moscow in the early 2000’s. Later defence too became a major component of the strategic partnership and this then extended to energy cooperation. But as he pointed out that trade remains a major issue. India’s private sector has little interest in Russia, and unless this changes trade volumes will remain stagnant. India-Russia ties are driven by both governments and not the private sector unlike in the US, UK and Europe. As the ties are led by both governments, there is an issue of ``perception’’. ``The Indian public’s perception of Russia is fed largely by the Western media. This somehow distorts the real picture,’’ Mukerji said. The fact is the US and Western image of Russia as an ugly force is far from the truth and does not apply to New Delhi’s ties to Moscow. Fortunately, at the highest political levels as in Prime Minister Modi and Vladimir Putin, there is a clear vision of the relations, and unlikely to be battered by ties with third countries (China-Russia or India-US).
Meanwhile, in the morning the two foreign ministers Subramanyam Jaishankar and Sergey Lavrov held a meeting together with defence minister Rajnath Singh and his counterpart Sergei Shoigu. This is the first time that the 2+2 format has been added to the summit. In his opening remarks Jaishankar pointed out that he and Lavrov are meeting for the fourth time this year.
``Prime Minister Modi and President Putin share a relationship of great trust and confidence. Annual Summit is taking place after a gap of two years because of the Covid. So we are looking forward to some very significant outcomes from the Summit,’’ the Indian minister said. ``Our partnership is indeed very special, it is very unique. And we are very conscious that in a world of rapid geo-political changes it has in fact been remarkably steady and strong. And I would also like to take the opportunity to underline that we are very satisfied with our bilateral relations and state of our cooperation.’’
In his early remarks, Lavrov said that President Putin and Prime Minister Modi had decided to introduce the 2+2 format which will help to further deepen smoothen the working of bilateral ties. He also said Moscow and Delhi both believe in a multilateral world order. During the talks on regional issues, the situation in Afghanistan will take centre-stage as all neighbours are concerned about that nation again turning into a terror hub.