Modi Bear Hugs Putin in Moscow, Marking Deep Ties Between Russia and India

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 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Moscow has underscored the enduring close relationship between India and Russia, despite ongoing efforts by Washington to draw Modi closer and isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin. Modi’s visit, his first to Russia since the Ukraine conflict began, featured a warm embrace with Putin, signaling India’s intention to maintain its deep ties with Russia.

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While the Biden administration has made significant diplomatic gestures to strengthen U.S.-India relations, including hosting Modi at a state dinner, the Indian leader’s warm interactions with Putin highlight the geopolitical balancing act India continues to perform. The images of Modi’s bear hug with Putin send a clear message: India values its historical ties with Russia, a key supplier of weaponry, energy, and space technology.

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The timing of Modi’s trip to Moscow, coinciding with NATO meetings in Washington, added to the consternation in Western capitals. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller expressed concerns about India’s relationship with Russia, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized the meeting, especially as it took place on the same day a children’s hospital in Kyiv was struck by a Russian missile.

For Modi and Putin, the meeting represents a strategic hedge. Modi values Russia as a counterbalance to China and a crucial supplier for India’s defense and energy needs. Putin, on the other hand, benefits from India’s significant purchases of Russian oil, which have increased nearly 20-fold since 2021, helping to fund his war effort.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, dismissed Western concerns, describing them as “jealous” of the Russia-India relationship. The two leaders discussed expanding imports of Russian oil and nuclear fuel for Indian power plants. Modi also announced plans to open new Indian consulates in Kazan and Yekaterinburg to bolster people-to-people ties.

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In his address to the Indian diaspora in Moscow, Modi emphasized the historical and strategic bonds between India and Russia. “Any mention of Russia reminds every Indian of an ally that has been with us through good times and bad,” Modi said. He also highlighted India’s ongoing efforts to enhance global prosperity in partnership with Russia.

Modi’s visit included a personal meeting with Putin at his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo. Modi expressed his honor at visiting a friend’s home, while Putin congratulated Modi on his recent reelection, praising his energetic leadership and dedication to the Indian people.

Modi’s decision to visit Moscow shortly after being sworn in for a third term, rather than following the traditional practice of visiting South Asian neighbors first, underscores his global aspirations. It also signals to Putin that India remains a steadfast partner, even as U.S.-India cooperation reaches unprecedented levels. This visit reaffirms the “special and privileged strategic relationship” between India and Russia, a relationship that continues to play a significant role in global geopolitics.

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