India’s Modi to Visit Russia, Hold Talks With Putin This Week

By Reuters
July 7, 2024World News
India’s Modi to Visit Russia, Hold Talks With Putin This Week
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pose for a photo shaking hands prior to their talks on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Sept. 16, 2022. (Alexandr Demyanchuk, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

NEW DELHI—Fixing India’s trade imbalance with Russia and securing the discharge of Indians misled into fighting in the Ukraine war will be among Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s priorities during talks in Moscow this week, a top official said.

Mr. Modi will visit Russia on July 8–9 for talks with President Vladimir Putin as part of annual summits between New Delhi and Moscow, launched in 2000.

Mr. Modi’s visit coincides with the July 9–11 NATO summit in Washington at which the Ukraine war will hold center stage, and the timing has raised questions about the signal India could be sending.

But Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, the most senior diplomat in the foreign ministry, rejected any connection and said Mr. Modi’s visit was part of the calendar of summits between the two countries.

“The bilateral visit this time is just a scheduling priority that we have undertaken and that’s what it is,” he told reporters on July 5 in response to a question at a briefing on Mr. Modi’s visit.

New Delhi shares historic bonds with Moscow going back to the days of the Soviet Union but has moved closer to the West, especially Washington, in recent decades as it liberalized its economy and expanded its geopolitical ties.

At the same time, it has sought to maintain what is seen as strategic autonomy in its self interest.

India has refrained from criticizing Russia over its war in Ukraine and urged the neighbors to resolve their conflict through dialogue and diplomacy, while increasing purchases of cheap Russian oil to record levels.

Pushing Exports

Mr. Kwatra said India–Russia trade had seen a sharp increase in 2023–2024 and touched close to $65 billion “primarily due to strong energy cooperation,” but Indian exports accounted for just $4 billion.

“Trade remains imbalanced, which is a matter of priority in our discussions with the Russian side,” he said, adding that India hopes to “correct” this by pushing exports across sectors including farm, technology, pharmaceuticals, and services.

Asked how India would deal with the sanctions imposed by G7 countries on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Kwatra said New Delhi had been holding talks with the bloc on the issue.

“We have been in very regular touch with G7 essentially to protect and progress our national interest and our national needs … whether it relates to diamonds or it relates to other sectors of industry and economy,” he said.

Mr. Modi will also take up the early discharge of Indian nationals who have been “misled” into serving in the Russian army, Mr. Kwatra said.

Several cases of Indians who were lured to Russia with the promise of lucrative jobs or education and ended up fighting against Ukraine have emerged this year and at least four Indian nationals have been killed in the war.