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Modi to visit Moscow next week as Kremlin says ‘all issues on the agenda’

<i>Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images/File via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Vladimir Putin
Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images/File via CNN Newsource
Vladimir Putin

By Rhea Mogul, CNN

(CNN) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Moscow next week for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine, a sign of the growing relationship between the two countries even as New Delhi maintains strong ties with the United States.

Modi will be in Moscow on July 8 and 9 at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, India’s Ministry of External Affairs announced, adding they would “exchange views on contemporary regional and global issues of mutual interest.”

Modi’s plans for the trip were first reported last month by Russian state media, citing Kremlin officials.

India remains heavily reliant on the Kremlin for its military equipment – a vital link given India’s ongoing tensions at its shared Himalayan border with China – and has ramped up purchases of discounted Russian crude oil, giving Putin’s nation a major financial lifeline as it faces isolation from the West.

Modi’s visit is widely seen as the latest dent in efforts by Western leaders to cast Putin aside.

India’s ties with Russia date back decades to the Cold War and have remained strong despite repeated sanctions on Moscow from Western governments.

New Delhi has repeatedly abstained from votes condemning Russia at the United Nations Security Council and has avoided public criticism of Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

Confirmation of Modi’s visit comes as Russia draws ever closer to China, potentially making New Delhi uncomfortable due to its longstanding Himalayan border dispute with Beijing that has simmered in recent years.

On Wednesday, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Putin hailed their two countries’ deepening alignment at a regional security summit in Kazakhstan, with the Russian leader claiming relations between the two were going through “the best period in their history” and should be considered a “stabilizing” force for the world.

Modi, however, was notably absent from the annual leaders’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a bloc of Eurasian countries spearheaded by China and Russia that is seen as a counterweight to Western institutions led by the US and its allies.

Some analysts viewed Modi’s decision to skip the event as a sign the leader of the world’s largest democracy does not view the bloc as an effective channel through which New Delhi can pursue its interests.

Modi last met Putin on the sidelines of the 2022 SCO summit, where he told the Russian leader that today’s era is “not of war.”

Yet his upcoming visit to Moscow is being viewed positively by the Kremlin – which has described Modi’s relationship with Putin as “very trusting” in nature – and comes as Russia aims to push back against Western efforts to isolate it on the world stage as punishment for its war in Ukraine.

“We can expect that there will be an exchange of views on all issues that are on the agenda, and there are many of them,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russia’s state-run news agency TASS on Tuesday.

Last month Putin also met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, where the two autocrats vowed to strengthen ties and deepen their cooperation in a new partnership that was signed during the visit.

Moscow this year has taken up the position as chair of the BRICS economic bloc, which includes Brazil, India, China and South Africa, providing Putin with an opportunity to push back against growing Western isolation and portray himself as a key player on a broad diplomatic stage.

But Modi’s visit is set against the backdrop of India’s growing relations with the US, as both countries share concerns over China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

Modi met with US President Joe Biden during a state visit to Washington in June last year, in a trip further cementing their defense, trade and technology partnership. The Indian leader also addressed Congress during that trip, an honor typically reserved for close US allies and partners, and attended a lavish state dinner. India is a member of the Quad security grouping with the US, Japan and Australia.

Later that year, Putin did not attend the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi, during which leaders delivered a consensus statement criticizing his invasion of Ukraine.

Additional reporting by Nectar Gan.

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