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PM Narendra Modi date with Russian president Vladimir Putin at seaside resort in Sochi | India News

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NEW DELHI: Informal summits are clearly the flavour of the season. Following the Wuhan summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now getting ready for yet another one – with Vladimir Putin in the seaside resort of Sochi on Monday next week.

In a surprise announcement, MEA said this afternoon it would be “an important occasion for the two leaders to exchange views on international matters in a broad and long-term perspective”. The summit, according to sources, was a last minute decision and only came together after an unnanounced visit to Moscow by NSA Ajit Doval and foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale.

The Modi-Putin summit is surprising in another respect – Modi will be meeting Putin at the SCO summit in Qingdao in early June, and Putin is expected to visit India for the annual India-Russia summit also in the next few months.

The Modi-Putin summit will be followed swiftly by Modi travelling to Indonesia and Singapore, and then China for the SCO summit. Modi will meet Putin for the BRICS summit in South Africa and again in Argentina for the G-20 summit.

“Bilateral issues will not be on the agenda,” said sources familiar with developments, the leaders will concentrate on “global and strategic” matters. The comparison with the Wuhan summit is inevitable, but there is one important difference – with China, Modi needed to talk to Xi to prevent a breakdown in relations between two rising powers. With Russia, those reasons don’t apply, since at the state-to-state level, bilateral ties remain strong, even if they are not of the quality they used to be. Nevertheless there are certain obvious triggers for the forthcoming summit.

The official rationale is that the summit is taking place in the context of hedging strategies being undertaken by all major powers as alliances and interests are being shaken loose. But within this larger space is the undeniable fact that India and Russia are on very different global trajectories and it will take extraordinary commitment to keep the relationship at the level both sides have been used to. The global flux underway has placed the US and Russia as strategic threats to each other. India, with strong relations with both unfortunately might become collateral damage as US and Russia target each other in economic and military actions. On the other hand, Russia is finding itself to be much closer to China, which is a big negative for India.

With Russia still being a major defence supplier, a recent US law could impose sanctions on India if it goes ahead with significant purchases from Russia, for example the S-400 Triumf air defense system. That would be a problem with the US. But the fact that India has not had a single bigticket defence buy from Russia in the past four years is a problem with Moscow.

Updated: May 14, 2018 — 9:59 pm

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