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Modi to meet Putin on May 21; effort to shore up ties against sanctions by U.S.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the sidelines of the 9th BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China on September 4, 2017.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the sidelines of the 9th BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China on September 4, 2017.   | Photo Credit: PTI

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to the Russian seaside resort of Sochi to meet President Vladimir Putin on Monday for what government sources called an “exchange of views” on various international issues including the US sanctions on Russia and Iran, and India’s commitment to its defence ties with Russia.

“We are not going to allow our defence requirements to be dictated by any other country. Whatever is in India’s interests in terms of procuring equipment for national security is what will determine how we act with various countries,” a source said, referring to the US’s twin actions of passing the CAATSA law (that provides for sanctions on countries conducting defence and energy trade with its “adversaries”) as well as pulling out of the six-party nuclear agreement with Iran, which will also affect India.

The government has made it clear that it is also standing by Russia on the latest standoff with western countries over the Salisbury case of chemical poisoning of two Russians in UK, as well as alleged Russian support to the Assad regime for chemical attacks in Syria. The external affairs ministry’s statements on both cases have demanded evidence of the allegations by the US and European countries before “apportioning blame”, a stand which has been viewed with some concern in Washington.

Mr. Modi will fly to Sochi on Monday morning and return the same evening after an estimated four to six hours of talks with Mr. Putin. Most of the talks will be between the leaders alone, accompanied only by interpreters, and much like the PM’s visit to Wuhan to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, no agreements or joint statements will be signed. Mr. Putin is expected to host a lunch in Mr. Modi’s honour where they are likely to be joined by their delegations, however.

Like the meeting with Mr. Xi, which followed the Chinese Party Congress, PM Modi’s meeting with President Putin will come shortly after the latter’s victory in the Russian Presidential elections in March. According to sources, Mr. Modi proposed the informal summit when he called Mr. Putin to congratulate him for his victory in March this year. Subsequently, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale made visits to Moscow in April and May.

The sources were clear that the Sochi summit would not focus on India-Russia bilateral issues including energy trade, defence purchases including the pending deal for the S-400 weapon systems, as well as nuclear issues, as these would be taken up at the annual summit between the leaders expected to take place in Delhi in October this year. Irritants in the relationship, including Russia’s closer military ties with Pakistan are also not expected to come up as sources said the government has accepted Moscow’s repeated assurances that these would not “impinge on Indian security interests”.

Apart from the meetings in Sochi and Delhi, Mr. Modi and Mr. Putin are expected to also meet at upcoming summits like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in China in June, followed by the BRICS summit in South Africa in July and the G-20 summit in Argentina in November. However, PM Modi is understood to be visiting Sochi for the informal meet despite all the other scheduled events as the 20-30 minutes afforded on the sidelines of multilateral events was considered “insubstantial” for the broad conversations he hopes to have with Mr. Putin.

The format of the meeting in Sochi, as in Wuhan is seen as a template for “future summits” by the Prime Minister, said sources who pointed out similar instances in the recent past when Mr. Modi chose to visit French President Macron in July 2017, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on his return journey from the U.K. in April 2018.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 11:41:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pm-to-meet-putin-on-monday-effort-to-shore-up-ties-against-sanctions-by-us/article23917035.ece

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