Updated: July 1, 2022 11:54:41 pm
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin — their fourth telephone conversation since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. They discussed the situation in Ukraine where Modi reiterated India’s position on dialogue and diplomacy.
They previously spoke on the phone on February 24, March 2 and March 7—when Indian citizens, mostly students, were still stuck in Ukraine.
A statement by the Ministry of External Affairs said, “The two leaders reviewed the implementation of the decisions taken during President Putin’s visit to India in December 2021. In particular, they exchanged ideas on how bilateral trade in agricultural goods, fertilizers and pharma products could be encouraged further.”
“The leaders also discussed global issues, including the state of the international energy and food markets,” it said.
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“In the context of the ongoing situation in Ukraine, the Prime Minister reiterated India’s long-standing position in favour of dialogue and diplomacy,” the statement said, adding that the leaders agreed to maintain regular consultations on global and bilateral issues.
While Russia has emerged as a major oil supplier to India, Modi attended the summit with G-7 countries. While India has not criticised Russia, it has condemned the killings in Bucha and called for an international probe — which is perceived as moving closer to the US-led west.
India’s balancing act
However, India has always tried to maintain a diplomatic balance between the US-led west and Russia, as the conflict has now been going on for the past four months. It has always stuck to its position that New Delhi has called for cessation of hostilities and advocated the path of diplomacy and dialogue to resolve the conflict.
India has not joined the sanctions imposed by the US and Europe on Russia, and Moscow sees this as a window of opportunity to engage with New Delhi. The conversation on trade in agricultural products, fertilisers and pharma products is important in that context.
New Delhi, which does not want Moscow to side with Beijing, has also maintained robust communication with Russia so that it has uninterrupted supply of defence equipment — both new and spares. About 60 to 70 per cent of India’s defence supplies come from Russia, and this dependence is crucial at a time when India and China are currently locked in a border standoff in eastern Ladakh.
Modi, who attended the G-7 summit with US President Joe Biden and other western leaders in Germany, also participated virutually in the BRICS summit, which was attended by Putin and chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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