‘Era is not of war’: Modi publicly asks Putin to end Ukraine war. It’s a first

Updated on Sep 16, 2022 11:07 PM IST

Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to PM Modi as “dear friend” and said he knew about Modi’s position and “concerns” on the Ukraine conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan (Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan (Reuters)

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday nudged Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine and return to the path of dialogue, saying he would have to consider the problems of food and energy security being faced by developing countries.

At a bilateral meeting with Putin on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the historic city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan, Modi reiterated his call for early cessation of hostilities and the need for talks and diplomacy. This was the first meeting between the two leaders since their summit in New Delhi last December.

India has consistently called for an end to the fighting in Ukraine and pushed for dialogue while refraining from publicly censuring Putin for the invasion launched in February. The Indian side has not voted against Russia at the UN but also repeatedly raised the impact of the Ukraine crisis on food and energy prices, especially for vulnerable countries.

“I know today’s era is not [an era] of war. We discussed this issue with you on phone several times, that democracy, diplomacy and dialogue touch the entire world,” Modi said in Hindi while delivering his televised opening remarks at the meeting with Putin.

He said he hoped to talk about “how we can move forward on the road of peace in the coming days”, and to understand Putin’s viewpoint. “Today the biggest worry before the world, especially developing countries, is food security, fuel security [and] fertilisers. We must find ways to these problems and you will also have to consider it,” he said.

Putin, who spoke before Modi and referred to the Indian premier as a “dear friend”, said he knew about Modi’s position and “concerns” on the Ukraine conflict. “We want all of this to end as soon as possible. But...the leadership of Ukraine has...refused to engage in the negotiating process. They said that they want to achieve their objectives...on the battlefield militarily,” he said.

'I know your concerns': Putin tells PM Modi on Ukraine conflict

Modi has, in past phone conversations with the leaders of Russia and Ukraine, even suggested direct talks between the two sides. This was the first time he publicly called on Putin to end the fighting.

At the same time, Modi emphasised his close ties with Putin and India’s strategic relationship with Russia, describing it as an “unbreakable friendship” that has lasted decades. He also spoke of his personal relationship with Putin going back to 2001 when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.

“Ties between India and Russia have grown manifold. We give importance to the relationship as we have been friends who have stayed together for many decades and the world knows what Russia’s relations with India have been, and what India’s relationship with Russia have been. The world knows this is an unbreakable friendship,” he said.

Modi thanked the Russian and Ukrainian leadership for their help in evacuating more than 22,000 Indians, most of them students, from Ukraine. “I am confident that our bilateral talks will help in strengthening bilateral ties and in fulfilling the aspirations of the world,” he told Putin.

Putin conveyed his best wishes for Modi’s birthday on Saturday and noted that Russia’s strategic and privileged partnership with India was developing very rapidly. The two sides are actively engaging at international platforms on all key global issues and it is important that “we constantly coordinate our positions”, he said.

“We have constructive relations and our trade is growing. In particular...the supplies of Russian fertilisers [to India] have grown more than eight-fold...I am hopeful that this is going to be of huge help to the agricultural sector of India...,” he added.

Putin expressed appreciation for Modi’s video message at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok earlier this month. The two leaders discussed important issues of bilateral cooperation and regional and global issues. “Discussions also pertained to global food security, energy security and availability of fertilisers in the context of the challenges emanating from the current geo-political situation,” the external affairs ministry said.

Since the start of the Ukraine conflict, India has taken up Russia’s offer of discounted commodities, especially oil, despite pressure from the US and other Western nations not to accelerate the purchase of Russian energy. Indian refiners, which rarely bought Russian crude before the Ukraine crisis, increased imports to 757,000 barrels per day (bpd) during April-August, compared to 20,000 bpd a year earlier.

Modi skipped an informal dinner and several ceremonial events for the SCO leaders on Thursday, flying into Samarkand well after most of the activities were over. During an extended session of the SCO Summit that included leaders of observer states and countries invited by Uzbekistan, the host of the summit, Modi raised the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis on global supply chains and the resultant “unprecedented energy and food crisis”.

Following the summit, Modi held separate bilateral meetings with Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

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