Indian Prime Minister Modi approaches

A point in time with a symbolic character Narendra Modi has chosen to be his old friend Vladimir Putin to visit again: India's head of government flew to Russia on Monday to intensify recently cooled ties with the Kremlin.

Putin received them at his residence in Novo Ogaryevo near Moscow for tea and the president also showed his guests the horse stables – one day before the start of the event NATO Summitwhere a new package to support Kiev will be drawn up.

Official talks are scheduled for Tuesday. The two-day trip is not only Modi’s first state visit since his re-election a few weeks ago, which was marred by a bitter defeat. It is also his first bilateral meeting with Putin since the war of aggression against Ukraine.

Brushing the belly

So far, what is known from the visit is that they rub each other's bellies. So IPutin criticized Modi's political commitment. “You have dedicated your whole life to the Indian people, people feel it,” Putin was quoted as saying by Russia's state news agency Tass. “You are right, my goal is only one – my people and my country,” he replied. Modi, who once again described Putin as a “friend”.

Many observers see the fact that Modi accepted Putin's invitation to Moscow as an attempt to demonstrate. India wants to once again assert its sacred independence. More and more Western countries are trying to intensify their ties with New Delhi.

Many friends, few enemies

While Modi's foreign policy includes alliances, especially for economic gain, it is generally non-partisan. It has not joined Western sanctions on Russia or condemned the attack on Ukraine.

Instead, Modi has used geopolitics to his advantage as usual and gotten oil from Russia, which was cheap because of the Western embargo. About 40 percent of India’s imports now come from Russia – and this may please Putin’s high war spending. Although India gets more of its military equipment from France and the United States, it still imports a significant amount of it from Russia.

Another reason for the visit may be that Russia and China are working closer together. Relations between New Delhi and Beijing are complicated: the world's two most populous countries are said to be competing for geopolitical influence. There is also a border conflict in the Himalayas.

But Russia also benefited from Modi's visit, especially after his meeting with the Hungarian prime minister, which was sharply criticized in Europe. Viktor Orban in Moscow: Russia is by no means isolated in world politics.

Second stop: Austria

Perhaps to soften Western criticism of his trip to Russia, Hindu nationalist Modi has chosen a somewhat surprising second destination: he will be Chancellor on Tuesday and Wednesday. Karl Nehammer expected in Vienna, including President Alexander van der Bellen he will meet. Invitation to NATO Summit in Washington However, Austria refused to consider the arrival of a 120-member delegation from India.

The Vienna meeting is likely to focus primarily on economic and technological cooperation, such as more skilled Indian workers for Austria. It will also mark 75 years of diplomatic ties. In his press release on Monday, Modi stressed that Austria and India share democratic ideals – a limitation that Modi has repeatedly criticized in his two previous terms.

Can India play a role as a mediator?

People in Vienna are hoping Modi will come for another reason: to discuss India’s possible role as a peace mediator in the Ukrainian war, which many in the international community have long wanted — precisely because of its traditionally good relations with Moscow. Nehammer also raised this possibility at a Ukraine conference in Switzerland in June.

In fact, there was a hint of this in Modi’s Monday broadcast: they “aimed to play a supportive role for a peaceful and stable region,” he said, referring to the trip to Russia. Modi found similar words with Putin in Moscow.

What this actually means and whether India will actually abandon its tried-and-tested strategy of avoiding conflict with others in favor of peace talks remains unclear. Experts consider it highly unlikely.

Ambrose Fernandez

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