May 19, 2018 (DESPARDES/PKONWEB) –Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is heading to the Black Sea resort of Sochi to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 21 to discuss ways to strengthen the two countries’ “privileged strategic” relationship.
The Kremlin has said Modi and Putin will discuss “key issues of developing the Russian-Indian privileged strategic partnership” and “pressing items on the international and regional agenda.”
“This will be an important occasion for the two leaders to exchange views on international matters in a broad and long-term perspective with the objective of further strengthening our special and privileged strategic partnership,” according to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
The talks come two weeks after Putin was sworn in to a new presidential term as ties between Moscow and the West have plummeted to post-Cold War lows over issues including Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, its role in Syrian conflict, its meddling in U.S. elections, and the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in Britain in March.
The talks in Sochi also come amid an unprecedented upturn in relations between Russia and Pakistan, former Cold War foes — a detente that has been watched with suspicion by Pakistan’s neighbor and arch-rival, India.
Meanwhile, Washington has been trying to cultivate New Delhi as a strategic ally, amid deteriorating U.S.-Pakistan relations over Trump’s allegations that Islamabad supports militant groups fighting Afghan and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials deny the accusation and China, Russia have said Pakistan has contributed a lot toward counterterrorism in the region.
Russia and Pakistan have reportedly signed a defense and security cooperation agreement– Pakistan’s Defense and Foreign Minister have dubbed it “defense treaty”.
Defense talks were also expected to be on the agenda of the meeting between Putin and Modi, including India’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile-defense systems.
In the last two decades, Russia-India ties have been underpinned by huge arms sales by Moscow to its “strategic partner.” However, over the years, the US and Israel have made significant inroads in its defense and security supply chain.
Therefore, an agreement on the S-400 would show India’s continued reliance on Russia’s military equipment at a time when the United States is trying to increase its own weapon sales to the South Asian country.
The Russian and Indian leaders were also expected to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, where the Western-backed government has been struggling to fend off militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.