''Russia is India's old-time friend''

Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi met in Sochi to discuss multiple economic and political issues

''Russia is India's old-time friend'' Photo: kremlin.ru

The Indian leader's trip to Russia shows that the two countries' strategic partnership is booming, although trade between India and Russia remains relatively weak. Last month, Narendra Modi also visited China to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Experts believe that it is the activity of the US administration that revives ''the Russia-India-China trilateral framework".

On 21 May, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Black Sea city of Sochi to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, reports CNN. The details of the talks remain undisclosed, but India's Ministry for External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement that the two leaders ''agreed on the importance of building a multipolar world order''. Modi himself named the negotiations ''extremely productive'' and promised that Russian-Indian ties ''will continue to scale newer heights in the coming years".

Nonetheless, the economic dimension of the Russian-Indian relationship is relatively weak, considers Harsh V. Pant, a professor in International Relations at King's College London. ''They've come under strain as the Russia-China relationship has grown, the Russia-Pakistan relationship has grown, Russia's role in Afghanistan is increasingly in opposition with what India perhaps believes.''

Unlike the two countries' trade relationship, their strategic ties are thriving. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia accounted for 62% of India's overall weapons import in the past five years. In April, Russia's Interfax news agency stated that India was in talks to buy five S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, although the deal can potentially be derailed if the US implements sanctions against Russia's defence industry.

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on 21 May 2018 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: kremlin.ru

''Russia is India's old-time friend,'' said Modi during his visit emphasising that the two leaders stood side by side on the international stage for the past four years. The partnership is growing amid the current foreign policy of the United States. According to Pant, the Trump administration's actions seem ''to be reviving the Russia-India-China trilateral framework''. ''The Trump administration's almost ad hoc approach to national affairs is something that has pushed India into having this conversation with the Russians and the Chinese as to how global governance can be structured in this time of destruction emanating from Washington,'' said the professor.

India is also facing potential consequences from the Trump administration's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and threats to impose sanctions on those who continue to trade with the country. Meanwhile, India has recently begun to ramp up investment in Iran.

By Anna Litvina