Modi's informal summit with Putin 'extremely productive'

NEW DELHI (ANN Desk) - The informal summit was held at the Black Sea resort of Sochi less than a month after Modi's similar meet with Xi in Wuhan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a day-long informal summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on May 21 during which the leaders vowed to strengthen the relationship between their countries and work towards a strong multipolar world.

The informal summit was held in the Russian coastal city less than a month after Modi's similar meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan. This was also the first meeting between Modi and Putin after the latter's re-election as President.

Modi described the talks as "extremely productive"and said discussions focused on India-Russia ties and global issues.

"Friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time. Our ties will continue to scale newer heights in the coming years,” Modi said.

"For the past four years, you and I stood side by side in the bilateral format and on the international stage... I am very glad that it was so," Modi told Putin.

Thanking Putin for inviting him to Sochi, Modi said the gesture had added a new dimension to bilateral ties. "You have added a new aspect of informal summit in the bilateral relationship which I think is a great occasion and creates trust," he said.

Putin emphasised the role India and Russia play in maintaining global stability.

"Last year, our trade saw a significant increase, adding another 17 percent since the beginning of this year," Putin said.

The two leaders agreed that the “special and privileged strategic partnership” between their countries is important to achieve global peace and stability, India's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Terrorism and radicalisation and the situation in Afghanistan too were on the agenda in Sochi.

"In this context, they endorsed the importance of restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan in an atmosphere free from the threat of terrorism, and agreed to work together towards achieving this objective," the foreign ministry said.

The meet came close on the heels of the US government's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, and weeks before a scheduled meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

Ahead of the meeting, observers noted that North Korea and America's pull out from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) were expected to be on the agenda along with the Syrian conflict, the Islamic State (ISIS), and matters related to the upcoming SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) and BRICS summits.

There were also reports that Modi and Putin could take up the issue of extending India-Russia civil nuclear cooperation to third countries and areas for cooperation for the International North-South Transport Corridor project.

The possible impact of US sanctions against Russia under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on India-Russia defence cooperation is also believed to have figured in the talks between Modi and Putin.

However, some experts believe the summit was an outcome of growing concerns about the stagnation of India-Russia relations. Though Russia remains the largest supplier of hardware to India's military, it is being edged out of the lucrative market by players such as Israel and the US. India has also been concerned by Russia's growing military ties with its arch-rival Pakistan.

Putin is expected to visit India later this year for an annual bilateral summit. Russia and Japan are the only two countries with which India holds annual bilateral summits.

Earlier this month, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale visited Moscow to discuss a way out of US sanctions on Russian firms.

Sanctions against Russian oligarchs and companies – including Rosoboronexport, the state-owned Russian weapons trading company – have raised concerns in India about a possible impact on military buys from Moscow.

India is currently in talks with Russia to buy five S-400 missile defence systems, a deal that could face rough weather under the new US sanctions.

Given Trump's America-first policy – which has affected Indian and Chinese firms – India is working to improve its relations with Russia and China.

The US' new approach towards Iran is also impacting New Delhi's plans, including operations at the strategic Chabahar port for which it has pledged US$500 million. Iran is the third largest supplier of crude to India, which will have to think up a way to nullify the effect of US sanctions.

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