Putin hails 'longstanding friendship' with India; Modi asserts ‘strategic partnership’ getting stronger

December 07, 2021
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Monday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Monday.

NEW DELHI — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday called India a “great power” and “longstanding friend” of Moscow following his talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi here.

“We see India as a great power, a friendly nation and a time-tested friend...Relations between our countries are developing,” Putin told journalists Monday evening, in what was only his second trip abroad since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Modi and Putin on Monday held the 21st India-Russia summit, covering an array of areas with an aim to further enhance the special and privileged strategic partnership between the two countries.

In his initial comments, Modi said there is no change in the pace of relations between India and Russia despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Modi said the special and privileged strategic partnership between the two sides was getting stronger and both sides remained in touch on the situation in Afghanistan and other issues.

In the last few decades, the world witnessed many fundamental changes and different kinds of geopolitical equations and variables, but the friendship of India and Russia remained constant, Modi said.

"Your visit to India is a reflection of your commitment to ties with India," the prime minister said. The summit talks took place hours after the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries held their inaugural '2+2' dialogue with an aim to widen the ambit of discussions on strategically important issues.

The day began with Defense Minister Rajnath Singh's talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu under the framework of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation.

Separately, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Then the foreign and defense ministers of the two sides held the '2+2' dialogue.

At the end of the talks between the defense ministers, both sides inked an agreement for joint production of over six lakh AK-203 assault rifles at a manufacturing facility in Uttar Pradesh's Amethi besides firming up another pact on military cooperation for 10 years. The rifles will be manufactured for the Indian armed forces at a cost of around Rs. 5,000 crore.

The Russian president has been known to be cautious about his health during the pandemic, skipping both the G20 and COP26 summit this year and holding many of his meetings with government ministers and regional governors over videoconference.

The Kremlin said last week that the summit in India will focus on defense and energy issues, with the head of Russian energy giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin, also attending the talks.

Russia has long been a major arms supplier to India. Putin on Monday boasted that Moscow’s military cooperation with India was “like with no other country.”

In 2018, India agreed a $5 billion deal with Russia to buy S-400 surface-to-air missile systems despite US warnings such a purchase could trigger sanctions under US law.

Lavrov — who also joined the summit along with Russia’s Defense Minister Shoigu — earlier in the day announced that the agreement to supply S-400s to India would go ahead despite what he described as efforts by the US to “undermine” the deal.

"The S-400 deal is not only symbolic, but also pragmatically significant for ensuring India’s defense potential," Lavrov said after talks with Indian counterpart Jaishankar.

The two countries further discussed cooperation in space, the situation in Afghanistan and the production of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in India.

The summit that covered an array of areas with an aim to further enhance the special and privileged strategic partnership between the two countries. The annual summit is held alternately in India and Russia. The two countries signed 28 agreements, included government-to-government pacts, in several areas.

Modi also mentioned cooperation in the economic sector, under which the two countries are adopting a long-term vision. "To achieve the aims of this partnership, we need to encourage our business leaders," he added.

Referring to bilateral trade, the Russian President said it decreased by 17 percent last year but has increased by 30 percent this year in the first nine months. "We are working on very promising sectors, including energy and space. We are also working and cooperating in areas of military and technology," Putin said.

The Russian President said the two countries continue to cooperate on the global agenda. "We are naturally concerned about everything related to terrorism, terror funding, and drug trafficking and that is why we are naturally concerned about the situation in Afghanistan," he added. Pointing out that the two countries have held joint military exercises in both Indian and Russian territories, he said that Russia intends to work further on this matter. — Agencies

December 07, 2021
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