Russia is an ‘all-weather friend’_ India’s Modi praises Putin

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said Russia was India’s “all-weather friend” and that ties between the nations have emerged stronger despite several tests.

Mr Modi was addressing the Indian diaspora in Moscow where he has been invited by Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend the 22nd Russia-India annual summit.

It is Mr Modi’s first visit to Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and since returning to power for a third straight term in June.

“I have been a fan of the unique relationship between Russia and India. Every time one hears the word Russia, every Indian feels it is India’s all-weather friend,” Mr Modi said.

“Our relations have been tested several times and each time, the friendship has emerged stronger … I especially praise my friend Mr Putin for his leadership. He has worked for more than two decades to strengthen this partnership.”

He also announced the opening of two new consulates in Russia.

Mr Modi later visited Russia’s “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” a monument to the millions of Soviet soldiers killed in the Second World War, and laid a wreath.

India is a long-time partner of Russia, and New Delhi has sought to continue its relationship with Moscow despite the US and Western countries urging nations to sever ties, threatening sanctions for trade relations in certain sectors.

It has repeatedly stressed resolving disputes through dialogue and diplomacy, although in Ukraine, Kyiv and Moscow have polar opposite positions on the conflict.

Mr Modi landed in Moscow where he was received by Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, at the Vnukovo-II airport and accorded a ceremonial military welcome.

He was later invited for a dinner by Mr Putin at his home where the two leaders held an off-the-cuff talk, mostly with the help of interpreters.

Mr Putin drove the Indian Prime Minister in a golf cart across his sprawling estate and showed him his horses at the stables.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a golf cart in Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia. EPA
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a golf cart in Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia. EPA

Mr Modi also requested Mr Putin release Indian soldiers serving in the Russian military amid the Ukraine war.

At least a dozen Indian men, aged between 22 and 31, were hired by Indian-origin agents in Russia to work as helpers in the Russian army.

But once the men reached Moscow, they were allegedly drafted into the Russian army and were forced to fight alongside the Russian forces in Ukraine.

At least two Indians recruited by the Russian Army have been killed in the war.

The two leaders will hold wide-ranging talks on Tuesday.

Zelenskyy reaction

Mr Modi’s visit to Moscow and meeting with Mr Putin was condemned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who called it a “devastating blow to peace efforts”.

“In Ukraine today, 37 people were killed, three of whom were children, and 170 were injured, including 13 children, as a result of Russia’s brutal missile strike. A Russian missile struck the largest children’s hospital in Ukraine, targeting young cancer patients. Many were buried under the rubble,” Mr Zelenskyy said on X on Tuesday.

“It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day,” he said.

The US, a key ally of India as well as Ukraine, urged Mr Modi to raise the European nation’s sovereignty with Mr Putin.

“We would urge India, as we do any country when it engages with Russia, to make clear that any resolution to the conflict in Ukraine needs to be one that respects the UN charter, that respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Ukraine’s sovereignty,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at a press briefing.

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