DC Edit | In Moscow, India drives home a point globally

Amidst global scrutiny, India reaffirms strategic ties with Russia, focusing on trade and mutual interests despite Western disapproval
It may not have been the most propitious time for the trademark warm hug Narendra Modi reserves for contemporary world leaders. The optics of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin may not have been universally popular given Russia is accused of bombing the largest paediatric hospital in Kyiv, but it did serve to send a clear message to the rest of the world. India will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of its interests as well as in furtherance of a mutually beneficial relationship with Moscow, regardless of the Western view of this bonhomie.

Amidst the tumultuous geopolitics of the time when wars are being fought in Europe and West Asia, India is in a unique position. Its importance as a counterbalancing power to China’s increasingly belligerent ways leading to global polarisation is undiminished as reflected in strong strategic ties with the US. At the same time, it reiterates its special friendship with Moscow, right from the days of the Cold War, and which has only strengthened with India being the second biggest importer of Russian crude, some of which gets refined before being sent to Europe.

There were clues to this strong renewal of ties with a convivial personal meeting in Mr Putin’s residence as well as talks at the Kremlin to be seen even in the welcome as Russia sent a higher ranked official to welcome Mr Modi at the airport. And the pointers were particularly strong in the outcome of the official talks which were more about trade than India’s defence requirements. To bump bilateral trade up to $100 billion by 2030 is envisaged while India also sought to seal energy security in its ability to keep buying Ural crude.

The personal bonding also led to Prime Minister Modi eliciting a Putin guarantee that Indians, lured to join the Russian army but forced to fight in Ukraine, will be sent back home. When the repatriation is done, it will again signify that India’s interests have prevailed, which just goes to show that India’s diplomacy is in a win-win zone abroad, notwithstanding the changed political situation at home with a coalition NDA government in place and the PM’s ruling party not in the same strong position as in the last 10 years.

Such is India’s place in the world today that Mr Modi could also convey the West’s discomfiture with the war in Ukraine even if the message to Mr Putin was couched in generalities and pieties, but with the point well made that the death of children is a tragedy the world can do without. The criminality of war is never more stressed than in the bombing of hospitals. What more could India have, even with its special position with Moscow, than to have the ear of Mr Putin concerning dialogue being the better way to settle the Ukraine issue.
The glitches in a skewed balance of payments may also be better addressed going forward if Russian investments come into defence production in India. It is significant that the countries have agreed to develop a bilateral settlement system using national currencies and introduction of digital financial instruments in mutual settlements. This may ease problems for both sides as Russia must skirt the global settlement system because of US sanctions and India needs to promote its Rupee for trading as the UAE Dirham is mostly used for oil purchases. So good were the vibes seen in the Modi-Putin meetings that the 2024 summit could well be a harbinger of bigger and better things to come in spheres of mutual benefit.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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