India PM Heads to Russia to Meet With Putin

( – India’s prime minister has flown to Moscow to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Although India and Russia have traditionally been friendly, Moscow’s new alliance with China is raising tensions between the countries. Narendra Modi’s meeting with Putin looks like an attempt to repair the damage.

On July 8, Modi, who has been India’s premier for 10 years, made his first visit to Moscow since 2015. Since then he’s met Putin at international events and the two speak regularly by phone, but it’s been a while since either has visited the other’s country. Normally that wouldn’t matter too much. Since India became independent in 1947 it’s been a non-aligned country, trading with both power blocs through the Cold War, and its armed forces have traditionally used a lot of Soviet or Russian equipment.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and started being hammered by Western sanctions, India has become an even more important trading partner for Moscow. Along with China, it’s now one of the major buyers of Russian oil and gas. However, the war has also brought Russia and China closer together, and that’s a worry for India.

Since 1959, China and India have had a bitterly disputed border that they’ve already fought a war over in 1962. In 2020, Chinese troops murdered dozens of Indian border guards. The growing military alliance between Russia and China has India worried, and the deaths of at least two Indian citizens forced into the Russian army aren’t helping either.

India wants closer relations with the West, but it’s also trying to preserve its friendship with Russia. It’s a delicate balancing act; Modi is helping Russia by buying its oil, but trying to mollify the West by calling for a ceasefire in Ukraine. Russia’s response has been to move closer to India’s great rival, China. By visiting Putin, Modi will be hoping to flatter the Russian leader and keep him on his side.

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