Modi tells Putin now ‘not a time for war’

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Russian President Vladimir Putin that now is “not a time of war” on Friday on the sidelines of a regional summit.

New Delhi and Moscow have longstanding ties dating back to the Cold War, and Russia remains by far India’s largest arms supplier.

But in their first face-to-face meeting since Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, Modi told Putin: “Your Excellency, I know today is not a time of war.”

India has shied away from explicitly condemning Russia for the invasion that drove up oil and other commodity prices.

But he stressed the importance of “democracy, diplomacy and dialogue” at the meeting held on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, Indian public service station Doordashan showed.

Modi added that they would discuss “how to move forward on the path of peace.”

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit comes as Russian forces are facing major setbacks on the battlefield in Ukraine, and represented an opportunity for Putin to show that his country was not completely isolated despite Western efforts.

“I know your position on the conflict in Ukraine, your concerns … and we will do everything we can to end this as soon as possible,” Putin told Modi.

But he added that the Ukrainian leadership rejected the negotiations and “said that it wants to achieve its goals by military means on the battlefield.”

On Thursday, Putin met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and acknowledged that his main ally Beijing also has “concerns” about the conflict.

– Arbitrage –

New Delhi has long walked a tightrope in its relations with the West and Moscow – and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlighted the difficulty of striking this balance.

It has urged a cessation of hostilities but has repeatedly ignored calls from Washington to condemn Russia, despite India’s quest to strengthen security ties with the United States.

Unusually, India is a member of both the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the so-called Quartet, a strategic bloc comprising the United States, Japan and Australia, intended to provide a more substantial counterweight to China’s rising military and economic power.

Former Indian ambassador to Russia Pankaj Saran called Modi’s comments “quite frank” by saying that the Ukraine crisis “has caught the attention of the whole world and created problems for the developing world”.

“This was a fairly strong message to Russia,” Doordashan said. “As a friend, his recommendation and India’s position is that this needs to be resolved only through dialogue and diplomacy.”

Putin visited New Delhi late last year, embraced Modi and praised India as a “great power” as the two men strengthened military and energy ties.

India is the second largest arms importer in the world after Saudi Arabia and according to the Business Standard, between 2016 and 20, 49.4 percent of its purchases were from Russia.

The Asian giant of 1.4 billion people is also a major consumer of Russian oil, increasing its discounted purchases in the wake of the Western embargo.

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