Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin reviewed bilateral ties, including energy cooperation, in a phone conversation on Friday, and the Indian leader reiterated his message that dialogue and diplomacy is the “only way forward” in the Ukraine crisis.
This was the fifth phone conversation between the two leaders since February. The two leaders met in person on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit at Samarkand in Uzbekistan in September, when Modi told Putin in the context of the Ukraine conflict that “today’s era is not of war”.
Friday’s phone call was a follow-up on the meeting in Samarkand, and the two leaders “reviewed several aspects of the bilateral relationship, including energy cooperation, trade and investments, defence and security cooperation, and other key areas”, according to an official statement from the Indian side.
In the context of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Prime Minister reiterated his call for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way forward,” the statement said.
A Russian readout on the conversation said that at the request of Modi, Putin “gave fundamental assessments of Russia’s line on the Ukrainian direction.” It did not give further details.
Modi briefed Putin on India’s presidency of the G20 and the country’s key priorities for the grouping of the world’s largest economies. Modi also looked forward to the two countries working together during India’s chairship of the SCO in 2023, the Indian statement added.
The two leaders agreed to remain in regular touch with each other.
The Russian readout said both leaders expressed satisfaction at the level of bilateral cooperation that is developing on the principles of the special and privileged strategic partnership and discussed practical interaction in mutual investment, energy, agriculture, transport and logistics.
India has so far refrained from publicly censuring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine though it has been critical of the killing of civilians and has also called for respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states. The Indian side has doubled down on Modi’s message that “today’s era is not of war”, which was also found mentioned in the joint communique issued at the G20 Summit in Bali last month.
At the same time, India continued its purchases of discounted Russian oil and fertilisers, putting Moscow among the country’s top three energy suppliers.
Friday’s phone conversation was being seen in diplomatic circles as a substitute for the annual India-Russia Summit, which was to be hosted by the Russian side this year. People familiar with the matter said the summit is not being held because of “scheduling issues”.
Modi and Putin earlier spoke on phone once in February, twice in March, and again in July. During these conversations and at the in-person meeting in Samarkand, Modi nudged Putin to end hostilities in Ukraine in view of the fallout of the war on developing countries, including a spike in food and fuel prices.
Sameer Patil, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), said: “The latest phone conversation is a continuation of the ongoing India-Russia dialogue but also a face-saver for India’s inability to join the in-person annual summit in Russia this year. Modi’s underlining of dialogue and diplomacy for Russia in the context of the Ukraine crisis is a continuation of his careful balancing between Russian sensitivities and the Western pressure on Moscow.”