Home Asia Modi-Putin Talks In The Shadow Of Ukraine War And World Disapproval

Modi-Putin Talks In The Shadow Of Ukraine War And World Disapproval

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi walk during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence near Moscow, Russia. (Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Pool via REUTERS)

Prime Minister Modi and his host Vladimir Putin have a busy day today with a “restricted” dialogue (meaning one on one), followed by delegation level talks. For Modi, it’s not just the bilateral with Russia which is of import, it’s the fact that the disapproving eyes of the world will be on him. So it’s a delicate balancing act he has to play.

Let’s take the bilateral first. As has been noted before, Prime Minister Modi’s visit has been long overdue and it had to be done. As diplomats note, it would have been nice if the international circumstances had been different but that would be wishing for the moon. Modi has to deal with the cards he’s been dealt with.

However much Putin’s invasion of Ukraine goes against every grain of India’s sense of sovereignty, India needs Russia for reasons enumerated many times over.

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The legacy equipment with India’s military that needs to be serviced and maintained, the need for reliable supplies of energy in this case Russian oil, but not to forget India’s agreement with Russia to build six nuclear power plants of which two are up and running and more in the pipeline.

There’s also the need to balance the might of China, an issue that has got blurred given the growing strategic cooperation between Moscow and Beijing.

Externally, what are world leaders going to tell Modi in the days ahead? For sure there will be criticism but there could also be a desire to know the prime minister’s reading of Putin.

Does he see an end to this war in Ukraine which has roiled the world? How? Would Putin be willing to pull back, how far and how much?

Modi may have only limited answers. Only Putin knows Putin’s mind. There’s little doubt Modi will in as diplomatic terms as possible, urge the Russian leader to end this war. But that’s how far this goes.

“Param Dost” also means knowing far to go, what to say and how.

In the hours ahead, the two sides will go as far as their national interests allow them.  Watch this space.