A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs read that the meeting will be an important occasion for both the leaders to further strengthen the privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia.
After meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping at Wuhan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will now be meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 21st for an informal summit at Sochi, located on the coast of Black Sea in Krasnodar Krai province. Both India and Russia have defence projects worth over $12 billion hanging in balance due to the new US sanctions that seek to restrain countries from buying weapon systems from Russia.
Though the meeting between Modi and Putin will aim at addressing issues on international matters and exchanging views on the long-term bilateral relationship between the two countries, it will also address key defence deals that has been impending since a long time now. A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs read that the meeting will be an important occasion for both the leaders to further strengthen the privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia. The foundation for the meeting has already been set by Ajit Doval, National Security Adviser and Vijay Gokhale, Foreign Secretary. The two senior officials had visited Russia last week and had held talks with the Russian Foreign Minister.
Russia has been India’s biggest supplier of arms for many decades now. Russia has also been providing India with MiG fighters, Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets, submarines and also some Tabar class frigates. India’s aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya is also a modified version of the Soviet-made Kiev-class aircraft carrier. Apart from already importing many defence equipment from Russia, India also has expansive future projects that are yet to be settled with Moscow. India is in talks with Russia over the procurement of five S-400 Triumpf anti-aircraft defence system and four Grigorivich-class stealth frigates. India and Russia also have a joint project to develop 200 Kamov 226-T helicopters and two countries also have plans of leasing of two nuclear-powered submarines.
With such an expansive defence relationship Russia, India cannot afford to get bound by the US sanctions. It was reported that the defence establishment in India was uncomfortable with the US State Department’s move to notify 39 Russian entities and also state-controlled arms exporter Rosoboronexport on April 6th. India has been constantly doing business with these Russian entities and the sanctions under CAATSA (Countering American’s Adversaries Through Sanction Act) would be denting India’s defence deals.
Though there is no set agenda for the visit, the informal meeting between Modi and Putin is likely to focus on issues related to Iran, North Korea, China and also Pakistan. Apart from raising these international issues, India is also likely to find ways to circumvent the new defence sanctions by the US and try to seal the impending defence deals. This informal visit by Prime Minister Modi, like the one in China, also aims at rebalancing bilateral ties with Russia.