MOSCOW: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday told President Vladimir Putin that “war cannot solve problems” and urged peace on a trip to Moscow over two years into the Ukraine offensive.

On his first visit since Russia launched its campaign in Ukraine in February 2022, Modi said he and Putin had chatted on a range of issues, adding: “I was happy that on Ukraine, we could both express our views openly and in detail.”

“When innocent children are murdered, one sees them die, the heart pains and that pain is unbearable,” Modi told Putin in comments in Hindi.

“I know that war cannot solve problems, solutions and peace talks can’t succeed among bombs, guns, and bullets,” the Indian leader added.

“And we need to find a way to peace through dialogue.” Putin thanked Modi for “the attention you pay to the most urgent problems” and said “you are trying to find some ways to solve the Ukrainian crisis, too, of course primarily by peaceful means”.

Modi landed in Moscow on Monday hours after Russia launched a massive barrage across Ukraine that killed at least 38 people and heavily damaged a children’s hospital in Kyiv, sparking condemnation from governments in Europe and North America.

On Monday evening Modi was pictured hugging Putin at the Russian president’s country residence, where the leaders spent several hours together, according to the Kremlin.

Such warm contact drew condemnation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

He wrote on social media: “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.”

At the Kremlin, Putin hailed India and Russia’s “very long-standing friendship” and said they now enjoy a “specially privileged, strategic partnership”.

Russia is a vital supplier of cut-price oil and weapons to India, but Moscow’s isolation from the West and growing ties with Beijing have impacted its partnership with New Delhi.

Modi is courting closer Western security ties after being returned to power last month as leader of the world’s most populous country.

Western powers have in recent years also cultivated stronger relations with India as a hedge against China and its growing influence across the Asia-Pacific, while pressuring New Delhi to distance itself from Russia.

The United States on Monday urged Modi to make clear in his talks with Putin that “any resolution to the conflict in Ukraine must... be one that respects the UN Charter with respect to Ukraine’s territorial integrity”.

Modi last visited Russia in 2019 and hosted Putin in the Indian capital two years later, weeks before Russia began its offensive against Ukraine.

India has largely shied away from explicit condemnation of Russia ever since and abstained on United Nations resolutions targeting the Kremlin.

But Russia’s fight with Ukraine has also had a human cost for India.

New Delhi said in February it was pushing Moscow to return several of its citizens who had signed up for “support jobs” with the Russian military, following reports some had been killed after being forced to fight in Ukraine.

Moscow’s relationship with China has also been a cause for concern.

Washington and the EU accuse China of selling components and equipment that have strengthened Russia’s military industry — allegations Beijing denies.

China and India remain intense rivals competing for strategic influence across South Asia.

New Delhi and Russia have maintained close links since the Cold War, which saw the Kremlin become a key arms provider to the country.

But Ukraine has stretched Russia’s weapons supplies thin, pushing India to look for other sources for arms — including growing its own defence industry.

Russia’s share of Indian imports of arms has shrunk considerably in recent years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

At the same time, India has become a major purchaser of Russian crude, providing a much-needed export market for Russia after it was dropped by traditional buyers in Europe.

That has dramatically reconfigured their economic ties, with India saving itself billions of dollars while bolstering Moscow’s war coffers.

India’s month-on-month imports of Russian crude “increased by eight percent in May, to the highest levels since July 2023”, according to commodity tracking data compiled by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.


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Az_Iz Jul 10, 2024 06:05am
He is playing both sides.
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