New Delhi: India’s refusal to join any camp over the Russia-Ukraine conflict earned Prime Minister Narendra Modi generous praise from President Vladimir Putin, who called the Indian leader a “true patriot” Thursday for following an independent foreign policy.
Putin made the remarks at a plenary session of the Valdai International Discussion Club, a Moscow-based think-tank.
The Russian premier’s compliments for India and Modi come at a time when the recently-released National Defence Strategy by the United States labels Russia a threat to America and its allies.
While most of the world is strongly divided in two camps – those against Russia and those supporting – India is yet to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.
The Indian government, which has talked with both Ukraine and Russia on multiple levels — including from the very top — has maintained that the crisis should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy.
Incidentally, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is set to travel to Russia early next month and will meet his counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on 8 November.
On Thursday, Putin said: “PM Modi is one of those individuals in the world who is able to pursue an independent foreign policy in the interest of his country, and his people without (entertaining) any attempts to stop him.”
He added India has walked a great development path from being a British colony to its modern state.
“It (India) attracts general respect from everyone in the world. A lot has been done in recent years under PM Modi’s leadership. He is a true patriot of his country. And this concept of his, ‘Make in India’, is a significant effort. (India) really has progressed in its development. A great future lies ahead of it,” Putin said.
He emphasised that Russia and India would continue to cooperate in military and technical areas.
“We have special ties with India that are built on the foundation of really close relations for decades. We never had any outstanding issues with India, we have always supported each other and I am positive that’s how it will remain in the future as well,” Putin said.
Sources in the defence establishment said India cannot afford to cut relations with Russia even though its ties with the US were increasing.
They said even if one ignored the fact that nearly 60 to 70 per cent of Indian defence equipment were of Indian origin, Russia’s help in India’s space and the nuclear programme could not be ignored.
Sources said the entire military nuclear programme was heavily dependent on Russian support, right from the designing phase to actual implementation.
India is currently building three more nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) besides the Arihant which is already operational.
India is also planning to build six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), all of which will depend on Russian help.
India has already struck a deal with Russia for the leasing of an SSN, which will be the third in the Chakra series. The Americans have flatly refused to lease a nuclear submarine.
The original INS Chakra initially came to India on a three-year lease starting in 1988.
The Indian military’s missile programme also gets a lot of Russian technological know-how and other assistance, sources said.
“No other country can offer India the kind of assistance that Russia offers,” a source said, adding that Russian help was significant in the Indian space programme.
Also read: Putin praises PM Modi for pursuing ‘independent foreign policy’, terms ties with India special