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‘Solution can’t be found on battlefield’ — Modi's clear message to Putin on Ukraine war

Modi’s message is expected to build on his words to Putin in September 2022 when he conveyed that “today’s era is not of war”.

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New Delhi: In his first visit to Russia since the war in Ukraine broke out, Prime Minister Narendra Modi communicated to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday that “a solution cannot be found on the battlefield” – making it India’s most direct appeal so far to end the conflict.

Modi’s message is expected to build on his words to Putin in September 2022, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Uzbekistan, when he conveyed that “today’s era is not of war”. This phrase was appreciated by Western leaders at the time, including French President Emmanuel Macron who made a special mention of it while addressing the UN General Assembly session in New York in late 2022.

Modi had an informal chat with Putin at dinner at Novo-Ogaryovo, the Russian President’s suburban residence, ahead of formal talks which will be held Tuesday. When he arrived in Russia, the Indian Prime Minister was received by first deputy prime minister Denis Manturov – an official senior to the deputy prime minister who received Chinese President Xi Jinping in March 2023.

Modi's visit to Russia coincides with the NATO Summit in Washington DC, where US President Joe Biden will be hosting various heads of states including Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy.

On Monday evening, Putin also offered Modi tea, sweets and berries and took him on a tour of the grounds in a motorised cart.

The Prime Minister is on a two-day visit to Russia, his first after assuming office for a third time. He landed on a day when a Russian missile smashed into a children’s hospital in Kyiv, triggering global outrage.

On Monday, the US State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller, while commenting on Modi's visit to Russia, told reporters: “We made quite clear directly with India our concerns about their relationship with Russia…

“We would hope India and any other country, when they engage with Russia, would make clear that Russia should respect the UN Charter, should respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Diplomatic sources in Delhi said India has always called for respecting the UN Charter, including Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty. There is no solution on the battlefield, they said, adding that dialogue and diplomacy was the only way forward.

India has tried to walk the tightrope between Russia and the West amid the war, though it notably condemned killings in Ukraine's Bucha in March 2022, and supported calls for an independent investigation into the massacre.

Russian Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov said the Kremlin attached “primary importance” to this visit, as quoted by TASS news agency, as it is Modi's first official bilateral visit abroad since coming back to office.

The economic agenda, especially energy, trade, manufacturing and fertilisers is expected to feature prominently in the delegation-level talks on Tuesday.

Modi and Putin will also resume the India-Russia annual summit after a nearly three-year gap. The last time the summit was held was in December 2021, when Putin visited India for its 21st edition.

This is the first time in nearly a decade that Modi has travelled to Moscow. He had visited Russia last in 2019, but that was to the port city of Vladivostok.

After the two-day Russia visit, Modi will travel to neighbouring Austria from 9-10 July.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

Also read: Nurturing ties with time-tested friend & China factor — strategic importance of Modi’s Russia visit

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