Russia rolls out red carpet for S Jaishankar; India sends out loud message to US

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Putin’s expressive warmth for Jaishankar was despite the fact that Modi had skipped the annual in-person summit with him for second time in a row. Modi hasn’t visited Russia after the outbreak of the Ukraine War.

EAM S Jaishankar meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow

EAM S Jaishankar meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, December 30: External Affairs Minister Subhramanyam Jaishankar began his long year-end diplomatic visit to Russia by posting a pass issued to him in 1962 to see the astronauts Nikolaev AG and Popovic PR who were aboard on the space flight Vostok. In his five days long visit to Russia, Jaishankar was warmly received by President Vladimir Putin.

Putin sported big smiles as he stood to welcome Jaishankar. He shook hands with Jaishankar by making evident that he was extremely pleased. Also, Putin sat down with Jaishankar flanked by his foreign affairs minister Sergey Lavrov and other officials.

Putin sat down with Jasihankar on a table that was small enough for him to see the Indian minister closely. This was unlike his sitting at an extreme end of a bizzarly long table with visiting French President Emmanual Macron and others.

Putin told Jaishankar that he wants to see “Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Russia”. Putin also said that he had been exchanging notes with Modi regularly on the global issues, including Ukraine. Putin this year has been seen lavish in his praises for India and Modi at several of the events where he has been appreciative of the independent Indian foreign policy.

Putin’s expressive warmth for Jaishankar was despite the fact that Modi had skipped the annual in-person summit with him for second time in a row. Modi hasn’t visited Russia after the outbreak of the Ukraine War. This is in contrast to Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting Moscow this year.

The western commentators have claimed that India is maintaining a fine balance as Jaishankar visits Moscow even while Modi stays away. Strategic Affairs expert Raja Menon told NPR that the major takeaway of Jaishankar’s visit was “to reassure the Russians that there is no pivot away from Russia. By the way, India has a strong reason not to do that because Russia and China are in an ever-closer relationship. And the last thing India wants to do in any way is to alienate Russia. So one is to reassure and the other is to consolidate in areas that are important, the key one is the military one because that is where the strongest ties are. So the centerpiece is political and security ties.”     

It may be recalled that Jaishankar in a discussion at Hudson Institute in the US a few months ago had remarked that “Russia will engage Asia more in the future”. Jaishankar during his intercations in Russia spotlighted the booming trade between the two countries.

While India is broadening its defence goods import basket by buying from France and the US, the Russian imports are not majorly affected, which are down from 65 per cent a few years ago to 45 per cent now. Russian hosts showed Jaishankar several of the defence facilities, including its forte of building warships. India is, incidentally, laying an ambitious roadmap to expand the fleet of naval warships amid a competition with China for domination of seas.  

Kremlin quoted Putin having told Jaishankar: “We would be glad to see our friend Prime Minister Modi in Russia. We’ll be able to discuss all current issues and talk about the prospects for the development of Russian-Indian relations. We have a lot of work ahead. He also said that “I have repeatedly briefed him on the situation regarding Ukraine conflict.”

Jaishankar’s visit to Russia appears to have sent a loud message to the US to not step on the tiger’s tail by raising the claims of assassination plots against Sikh activists as the minister inked pact for the expansion of the nuclear cooperation. Also, Modi had set the tone for Jaishankar’s visit to Russia by asserting in an interview to the Financial Times that “absolute agreement is not necessary for cooperation” when he was probed by the daily on investigations in the US in the assassination plot against Sikh activist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.  

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