Putin during his meeting with Modi at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 9, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

MOSCOW:  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday told President Vladimir Putin that “war cannot solve problems” and urged peace on a trip to Moscow over two years into the Ukraine offensive.

On his first visit since Russia launched its campaign in Ukraine in February 2022, Modi said he and Putin had chatted on a range of issues, adding: “I was happy that on Ukraine, we could both express our views openly and in detail.”

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“When innocent children are murdered, one sees them die, the heart pains and that pain is unbearable,” Modi told Putin in comments in Hindi.

“I know that war cannot solve problems, solutions and peace talks can’t succeed among bombs, guns, and bullets,” the Indian leader added.

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Image Credit: ANI

“And we need to find a way to peace through dialogue.”

Putin thanked Modi for “the attention you pay to the most urgent problems” and said “you are trying to find some ways to solve the Ukrainian crisis, too, of course primarily by peaceful means”.

On Monday evening Modi was pictured hugging Putin at the Russian president’s country residence, where the leaders spent several hours together, according to the Kremlin.

At the Kremlin, Putin hailed India and Russia’s “very long-standing friendship” and said they now enjoy a “specially privileged, strategic partnership”.

Image Credit: ANI

Russia is a vital supplier of cut-price oil and weapons to India.

Modi is courting closer Western security ties after being returned to power last month as leader of the world’s most populous country.

Western powers have in recent years also cultivated stronger relations with India as a hedge against China and its growing influence across the Asia-Pacific, while pressuring New Delhi to distance itself from Russia.

The United States on Monday urged Modi to make clear in his talks with Putin that “any resolution to the conflict in Ukraine must... be one that respects the UN Charter with respect to Ukraine’s territorial integrity”.

Modi last visited Russia in 2019 and hosted Putin in the Indian capital two years later, weeks before Russia began its offensive against Ukraine.

India has largely shied away from explicit condemnation of Russia ever since and abstained on United Nations resolutions targeting the Kremlin.

Image Credit: ANI

Arms, oil

But Russia’s fight with Ukraine has also had a human cost for India.

New Delhi said in February it was pushing Moscow to return several of its citizens who had signed up for “support jobs” with the Russian military, following reports some had been killed after being forced to fight in Ukraine.

Russia’s share of Indian imports of arms has shrunk considerably in recent years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

At the same time, India has become a major purchaser of Russian crude, providing a much-needed export market for Russia after it was dropped by traditional buyers in Europe.

That has dramatically reconfigured their economic ties, with India saving itself billions of dollars while bolstering Moscow’s war coffers.

India’s month-on-month imports of Russian crude “increased by eight per cent in May, to the highest levels since July 2023”, according to commodity tracking data compiled by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

But this has also resulted in India’s trade deficit with Russia rising to a little over $57 billion in the past financial year.

From Russia, Modi will travel to Vienna for the first visit to the Austrian capital by an Indian leader since Indira Gandhi in 1983.