After six hours of one-on-one conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi earlier this week, New Delhi and Moscow are going to cooperate in a new area: Afghanistan. This is the first time that the two countries will undertake a joint project — possibly in the development sector — in Afghanistan. This also comes close on the heels of the informal summit in Wuhan, China, where Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping decided to work on a project in Afghanistan after four hours of one-on-one conversation.
Sources told The Indian Express that Modi proposed the idea for the joint project in Afghanistan, which Putin readily accepted. “Unlike in Wuhan, where Xi had proposed the Afghanistan project, here Modi took the initiative with Russia,” a source said. This assumes significance in the wake of Russia urging the international community, especially the US, to talk to Taliban or face a bloody war for years to come.
With Russia’s increasing proximity to Pakistan evident in recent past, India took up the issue of countering terrorism and made a veiled reference to Pakistan supporting terrorists across the world. While Moscow — like Beijing — has been articulating the position that Pakistan is also a “victim of terrorism”, the Indian side, it is learnt, forcefully argued that the international community needs to differentiate between victims of terrorism of their own making, and others.
“There are victims and there are victims. Some are victims of their own making, their people are being killed by terrorists and terror groups created by them, while we are victims of terrorism, which have been perpetrated by groups created by them,” a source said. “We conveyed that there is a difference.”
Sources said the adverse impact of US sanctions against Russia under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on New Delhi’s defence cooperation with Moscow did not figure in the discussions between Modi and Putin. “The two sides decided to discuss the issues related to defence, nuclear and trade areas during the annual summit in the latter half of this year,” a source said. Modi is scheduled to travel to Russia for the annual summit, which is different from the informal summit in Sochi.
“The two leaders shared lot of chemistry, and that was evident when Putin — impromptu — decided to come to the airport to see off Modi. What became interesting was that they reached the airport in the car, and kept talking for almost 15 minutes, while everyone else was waiting for them to emerge from the vehicle. This just signifies the comfort level between the two countries,” the source said.