Modi-Putin to engage in dialogue as Russia plans attack on Ukraine

17 December, 2022 | Riya Girdhar

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone for the seventh time since February of this year.

In a phone call on Friday, PM Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed bilateral relations, especially energy cooperation. The Indian leader reaffirmed his position that communication and diplomacy are the “only way ahead” in the Ukraine conflict.

Since February, the two leaders have spoken on the phone five times. When the two leaders personally met in September at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Modi informed Putin on the turmoil in Ukraine that “today’s period is not of war.”

The two leaders “reviewed several aspects of the bilateral relationship, including energy cooperation, trade and investments, defence and security cooperation, and other key areas,” according to an official statement from the Indian side. The phone call on Friday was a follow-up to the meeting in Samarkand.

According to the statement, the prime minister “reiterated his appeal for discussion and diplomacy as the only way forward in the light of the current situation in Ukraine.”

According to a Russian account of the call, Putin “provided essential evaluations of Russia’s stand on the course of the Ukrainian situation” at Modi’s request. It didn’t provide any more information.

Modi informed Putin on India’s G20 chairmanship and the nation’s top concerns for the association of the greatest economies in the globe.

The Indian statement also stated that Modi was looking forward to the two nations cooperating when India is the SCO’s chair in 2023.

The two leaders decided to communicate often going forward.

According to the Russian readout, the two leaders discussed practical cooperation in mutual investment, energy, agriculture, transport, and logistics and expressed satisfaction with the level of bilateral cooperation that is growing under the principles of the special and privileged strategic partnership.

Although it has condemned the slaughter of civilians and urged for preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, India has so far refrained from officially denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Indian government has reiterated Modi’s claim that “today’s period is not of war,” which was also contained in the joint communiqué released at the G20 Summit in Bali last month.

At the same time, India kept buying inexpensive Russian fertilisers and oil, making Moscow one of the top three energy suppliers in the nation.

In diplomatic circles, Friday’s phone call was viewed as a stand-in for the yearly India-Russia summit, which this year was scheduled to be hosted by the Russian side. According to those with knowledge of the situation, “scheduling concerns” prevented the meeting from taking place.

Earlier in February, again in March, and once more in July, Modi and Putin had phone conversations. Modi urged Putin to halt hostilities in Ukraine during these calls and at their face-to-face encounter in Samarkand due to the effects of the war on developing nations, including as a rise in food and fuel costs.

“The new phone discussion is a continuation of the current India-Russia dialogue but also a face-saver for India’s inability to participate in the in-person annual summit in Russia this year,” said Sameer Patil, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF). In the wake of the Ukraine crisis, Modi has emphasised discussion and diplomacy with Russia as part of his cautious balancing act between Russian sensitivities and Western pressure on Moscow.