India, Russia eyeing PM Modi’s Moscow visit in early July | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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India, Russia eyeing PM Modi’s Moscow visit in early July

Jun 25, 2024 07:56 PM IST

If the visit goes ahead, it will be Modi’s first trip to Russia since 2019, and also the first since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Feb 2022.

India and Russia are eyeing the possibility of a visit to Moscow by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in early July for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian president Vladimir Putin. (AP File Photo)(HT_PRINT)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian president Vladimir Putin. (AP File Photo)(HT_PRINT)

If the visit goes ahead, it will be Modi’s first trip to Russia since 2019, and also the first since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Putin last visited India in 2021 for the annual India-Russia Summit, which hasn’t been held in the past two years.

Though there was no formal announcement by the Indian and Russian sides, people familiar with preparations for the visit in New Delhi and Moscow said on condition of anonymity that the Indian premier is expected to make a brief day-long visit to Russia in early July. Some reports suggested July 8 will be the date of the visit, but there was no official confirmation.

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In Moscow, Yuri Ushakov, an assistant to the Russian president, told reporters that active preparations are underway for Modi’s visit and both sides will announce the date in agreement.

“I can confirm that we are preparing a visit by the prime minister of India. We cannot (say) the dates as yet, because the dates are announced by the parties in agreement. But we are actively preparing. I will emphasise once again, this visit will take place,” Ushakov said in response to questions from reporters.

One of the people cited above said the trip will be an official visit and not a State visit, which has more ceremonial elements. The focus will be on meetings and discussions, the person said.

The people also pointed out that the Indian side has not sent an “advance liaison team” to Russia as yet – a prerequisite for any foreign visits by the prime minister.

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Modi and Putin last met on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit at Samarkand in Uzbekistan on September 16, 2022, when he urged him to return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the Ukraine conflict. “I know that today’s era is not of war and we have spoken to you many times on the phone that democracy, diplomacy and dialogue are such things that touch the world,” Modi said at the time.

Since then, the two leaders have spoken on phone several times, most recently when Putin called Modi on June 5 to congratulate him on his election win. According to a Russian readout, Putin said Modi’s victory was a recognition of the “strengthening of [India’s] international authority”.

The development comes close on the heels of Modi’s decision to skip the SCO Summit in Kazakhstan during July 3-4, apparently due to the ongoing session of Parliament and the strained relations with China. India is expected to be represented at the SCO meet by external affairs minister S Jaishankar.

A visit to Kazakhstan would have brought Modi face to face with Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for the first time in his third term. The Indian side had sent an advance liaison team to Kazakhstan to prepare for Modi’s planned visit.

The proposed visit to Moscow will allow India to signal that there will be continuity in its policy of strategic autonomy, people familiar with the matter said. Despite growing strategic and security ties with the US and other key Western players, India has not publicly criticised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It has also stepped up the purchase of discounted Russian crude despite initial pressure from the US, saying such a move is needed to control domestic oil prices.

However, India has repeatedly called for a cessation of hostilities in the Ukraine conflict and a return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy to find a lasting solution.

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