Yekaturinburg, Russia – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently traveled to Vladivostok, Russia for two days of meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF). With this trip PM Modi became the first Indian PM to visit the far eastern region of Russia.
During the two day visit Modi held bilateral meeting with Putin and was the chief guest of the EEF. A range of topics were covered at the bilateral meeting between Putin and Modi. Overall the tone was that of increased cooperation. “This is a historic opportunity to give a new impetus to cooperation between our countries,” Modi said at the beginning of the meeting. The two leaders spoke on a wide range of topics including Kashmir, energy, trade, and military.
On Kashmir, Putin reiterated the sentiment that Kashmir is an internal matter. The Russian President also backed India’s move on Jammu and Kashmir stating that the changes in status for the regions are within the framework of the Indian constitution. At a press conference following the meeting Modi said, “We both are against outside influence in the internal matters of any nation.”
Other highlights of the meeting included a 10 year extension of a bilateral program of military and technical cooperation that was scheduled to conclude in 2020, collaboration on nuclear power, the agreement to develop a maritime trade route between Chennai and Vladivostok, and an agreement for Russia to help train astronauts for the Indian manned space mission.
Beyond the bilateral meeting, PM Modi also made news with the announcement that he was extending a $1 billion line of credit for the development of the Russian Far East. Explaining the line of credit Modi said, “My government has actively engaged in East Asia as part of its ‘Act East’ policy. This will also give a new dimension to our economic diplomacy.”
The meeting of Putin and Modi is of concern to some in the West due to the perception that Russia is seizing the opportunity to strengthen its relationship with India at the expense of the United States and Europe.
Indian-American businessman Vinod Gupta, CEO of Everest Group described these concerns, “It’s better for India to maintain good relations with all countries specially USA and Western Europe. They are the ones who brings billions to India in software trade. In my book. Be loyal to the ones who butter my bread.”
Not all people see Modi’s move toward a closer relationship with Russia in such severe terms, however. Manny Cohen, CEO of the Armadillo Group believes India should pursue Russia, but with caution. “I believe India as a growing economic powerhouse and should create as many bilateral relationships as possible. However, Modi should be wary, he runs the largest true democracy in the world and he is dealing with a Russian bear that has been known to bite their friends. He has also to be careful of western sanctions against Russia as Europe and the US are currently India’s biggest market,” cautioned Cohen.
“However, Modi has to balance this with the growing regional power of China and problems with Pakistan over Kashmir. So any improvement in political and economic relations with the other regional power, Russia, is probably seen as not only positive, but necessary,” concluded Cohen.