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Defence buys won’t be dictated by the US: India on Russia sanctions

On May 21, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Sochi for a “four- six hour” informal summit, which would mostly be a series of one-to-one meetings with Russian president Vladimir Putin, a source said.

india Updated: May 18, 2018 17:55 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting in Tashkent.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting in Tashkent.(PTI FIle Photo)

The Indo-Russian relationship was a stabilising factor in a fast changing regional and global order, persons familiar with the planning of the May 21 meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

Modi would be in the Black Sea resort of Sochi for a “four- six hour” informal summit, which would mostly be a series of one-to-ones with Putin, “an old friend and a trusted partner”, a source said.

India’s defence purchases wouldn’t be dictated by another country such as the US, said the source on New Delhi’s view on the US sanctions on Russia impacting country’s defence purchases from Moscow.

Russia continues to be India’s biggest arms supplier, though its share in Delhi’s weapon imports has dropped from 79% in 2008-12 to 62% in 2012-17, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

India is purchasing five S-400 Triumf systems, an anti-aircraft missile array that can also intercept missiles, in an estimated $6 billion-deal that comes at a time when the Trump administration is planning more sanctions against Russia.

Signed by President Donald Trump in August 2017, the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act targets any country trading with Russia’s defence and intelligence sectors.

Looking at the big picture, a second source said the meeting was not aimed at any one country or countries but the message was that the India-Russia relationship was a factor of stability.

The meeting comes amid geopolitical shifts. Once close partners, India and Russia have grown a bit distant. While Russia’s ties with the US are worsening, it is getting close to China and also building a relationship with Pakistan, which is not lost on New Delhi.

India had conveyed its concerns about Pakistan, which Russia understood.

Another source said India’s ties with Russia were old and deep-rooted. “The relation is big, broader and strategic enough to address these differences,” the source said.

Since the two leaders will meet for the annual bilateral summit later in the year, the informal meeting will have a limited bilateral agenda and would be a broad exchange of views on international issues.

A Eurasian Economic Union, North-South corridor, Afghanistan, and Iran nuclear deal could figure in the talks, the source said.

The two leaders could also discuss how India could benefit from Putin’s economic policies and a bigger role for Russia in the Modi government’s Make in India campaign.

Several world leaders were set to meet Putin who was re-elected as the President in March, sources said. German chancellor Angela Merkel is to have an informal summit with the Russian leader.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, too, will be travelling to Russia soon.