India hosts Putin as it balances ties with Russia, US

NEW DELHI (AP) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday to discuss defence and trade relations as India attempts to balance its ties with the United States (US).

The agenda for the annual summit includes political and defense issues, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said.

The two countries are expected to sign several agreements, particularly in trade and defence.

India and Russia have a long history of close ties. But recently, India has drawn closer to the US, which it considers critical to countering China. India and China have had a months-long military standoff along their disputed border in eastern Ladakh, where deadly clashes erupted last year.

Russia, meanwhile, has expressed reservations over the formation of the Quad, a grouping involving the US, India, Japan and Australia formed in response to China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. PHOTOS: AP/AFP

India is trying to navigate its defence relationship with Russia as it ramps up its military ties with the US. India and Russia are discussing and likely to sign a 10-year military-technical agreement that could help in the transfer of new technologies to India.

India, a major buyer of military equipment, depended largely on the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. But it has been diversifying its purchases by opting for US equipment as well.

During the Donald Trump presidency, the US and India concluded defence deals worth over USD3 billion. Bilateral defence trade increased from near zero in 2008 to USD15 billion in 2019. India’s acquisition of Russian S-400 missile systems which it considers to be critical in countering China could prove to be an irritant in Indo-US ties.

Washington has asked its partners to stay away from Russian military equipment to avoid possible sanctions.

India and Russia are also expected to strengthen their trade deals. They have already set a target of USD30 billion in bilateral trade by the end of 2025.