‘War cannot solve problems,’ India’s PM Modi tells Russia’s Putin

The killing of children is ‘unbearable’, Modi says, a day after a deadly strike on a children’s hospital in Ukraine.

Russia's Putin, India's Modi meet
President Vladimir Putin, left, greets Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Moscow on Tuesday [Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik via Reuters]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that peace is “of utmost importance” and a solution to the war in Ukraine “cannot be found on the battlefield”.

Putin – speaking before Modi at a televised meeting at the Kremlin on Tuesday – said their two countries enjoyed a “special strategic partnership” and praised the Indian leader for his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

“I thank you for the attention you are paying to the most acute problems, including trying to find ways to resolve the Ukrainian crisis – above all by peaceful means, of course,” said Putin.

India has become an increasingly important partner for sanctions-hit Russia as it shifts its trade away from the West and seeks to demonstrate that Western attempts to isolate it have failed.

New Delhi has refrained from criticising Russia over the war and has increased its purchases of cheap Russian oil to record levels, while urging Ukraine and Russia to resolve their conflict through dialogue and diplomacy.

“As a friend, I have also said for the brighter future of our next generation, peace is of utmost importance,” Modi said in Hindi, sitting alongside Putin. “When innocent children are murdered, one sees them die, the heart pains and that pain is unbearable.”

The Indian leader’s comments come a day after a lethal strike on a children’s hospital in Kyiv, just one of a series of attacks that killed 37 people in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned India’s prime minister for visiting Russia, calling the trip a “devastating blow to peace efforts”.

“It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day,” Zelenskyy wrote in a message on social media.

Modi, making his first trip to Russia since 2019, hopes to strengthen energy and defence cooperation with Russia, which India depends on for much of its military equipment and oil.

But the Indian leader must walk a careful line to not alienate Western powers he is also courting that are sceptical of the relationship.

On Tuesday, Modi said he appreciated Putin’s leadership and described India’s relationship with Moscow as one of “mutual trust and mutual respect”.

He pointed to Russian manufacturing and energy as boosts to India’s economy, helping to create jobs for youth and tame fuel prices.

In one sign of further cooperation, Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom announced it is in discussions to potentially build six more nuclear power units in India.

Al Jazeera’s Yulia Shapovalova, reporting from Moscow, said India’s delegation is also likely to “discuss a long-term agreement on the supply of oil from Russia to India at discounted prices”.

Putin and Modi are also expected to discuss broader trade development, including intentions to develop a maritime corridor between India’s major port of Chennai and Vladivostok, the gateway to Russia’s Far East.

India-Russia trade has seen a sharp increase, touching close to $65bn in the 2023-24 financial year, because of strong energy cooperation, according to Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra.



Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies