Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to have outright rejected Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, telling Russian President Vladimir Putin that now is not a time for war.
In what was the latest in a string of setbacks for the Russian leader, Modi told him he must “walk the path of peace” and reminded him of the importance of “democracy, diplomacy and dialogue”.
Modi’s comments came during a face-to-face meeting on Friday on the sidelines of a regional summit, and highlighted Russia’s growing isolation on the diplomatic stage. They came just a day after Putin admitted that China also had “questions and concerns” about the invasion.
Modi told Putin during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
He added, according to a reading of the meeting by India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
Putin responded by telling the Indian leader that he was aware of his concerns.
“I know your position on the conflict in Ukraine and your concerns. We want all of this to end as soon as possible.
Modi’s apparent criticism of the Russian invasion is only the latest setback for Putin, whose forces have suffered a series of major battlefield defeats in recent weeks. Ukraine claims to have regained about 8,000 square kilometers of land.
Diplomatically, Moscow also appears to be losing ground, and this was highlighted by the exchanges at the Samarkand Summit, which brought together leaders from Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran and four countries in Central Asia.
It seemed that Moscow and Beijing would be eager to present a united front at the top to counterbalance the United States and its allies.
However, there are signs of division over the Russian invasion, which has alarmed the leaders of the former Soviet territories in Central Asia who worry that Russia will encroach on their territory as well.
India and China are Russia’s biggest oil customers, and suggestions over the past few days that they both have reservations about the war give Moscow plenty to think about.
Earlier at the summit, after acknowledging China’s concerns, Putin said, “We highly appreciate the balanced stance of our Chinese friends when it comes to the Ukraine crisis.”
Xi and Putin met for the first time since the war. Hear what they discussed
New Delhi, like Beijing, has strong ties with Moscow dating back to the Cold War and so far has largely shied away from condemning the outright invasion of Russia, which remains India’s largest arms supplier.
In a statement issued after Friday’s meeting, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said the discussions between the two leaders “also pertain to global food security, energy security and fertilizer availability in the context of challenges arising from the current geopolitical situation”.
The ministry added that they “agreed to maintain contact.”
The meeting comes at a time when heavy bombardment continues on the regions of southern and eastern Ukraine that were wrested from Russian forces. Ukrainian officials say they have discovered at least 440 graves at a mass burial site in the city of Izyum in the recently liberated Kharkiv region.