Terror, trade, COVID certification: Here’s what Modi, Putin discussed
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday identified terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime as common challenges facing both India and Russia, while also expressing concern over the developments in Afghanistan. During the Russian president’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the two leaders spoke extensively about vaccine certification and a need to speed it up to smoothen travel between the two countries.
Calling India a “great power” and a “time-tested” friend, Putin said both the nations will continue to coordinate on major challenges facing the region.
“We perceive India as a great power, a friendly nation and a time-tested friend. The relations between our countries are developing and we are looking into the future,” Putin said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Putin’s second visit abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic reflects his personal commitment to the India-Russia ties and that the special and privileged strategic partnership between the two sides was getting stronger.
“In the last few decades, the world witnessed many fundamental changes and different kinds of geopolitical equations and variables, but the friendship of India and Russia remained constant,” Modi said. “Your visit to India is a reflection of your commitment to ties with India.”
Putin said both sides continue to cooperate on global issues and the positions of the two sides on many issues have similarities.
“Naturally, we are concerned about everything that has to do with terrorism. I mean the fight against terrorism and the fight against drug trafficking and organised crime,” Putin said. “In this regard, of course, we cannot but be concerned about the situation and how it is developing in Afghanistan,” he said.
Also touching upon the growing cooperation between India and Russia in areas of environment, trade and investment and high technology, Putin said although Russia in 2020 saw a decline in trade turnover by more than 17 per cent, the growth shot to more than 38 per cent in the first nine months of 2021. “This also applies to investment activities. Now 38 billion (dollars) is roughly equally distributed, with slightly more investment from the Russian side. But we do cooperate, we are working in very important, promising areas – these are energy, high technologies and space. And I am sure that the programmes we spoke about will be implemented, including the training of an Indian cosmonaut,” Putin said.
With vaccine certification being a priority for both the leaders, the two countries expressed confidence that early mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccination certificates will further facilitate movement of persons between India and Russia, agreeing to fast track the formalities for it.
The two countries also agreed to consider the resumption of direct passenger and cargo flights to their pre-pandemic capacity, said a joint statement issued after in-person talks between Modi and Putin. According to the statement, the two leaders exchanged views on the pandemic situation and highly appreciated the ongoing bilateral cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, especially with respect to the Sputnik-V vaccine.
“The leaders expressed gratitude to each other’s countries for timely assistance during the pandemic. India’s assistance in supplying critical medicines, including paracetamol, hydroxychloroquine, and certain antibiotics during the first phase in Russia and Russia’s assistance in providing ventilators, oxygen concentrators and other critical equipment during India’s second phase, was a humanitarian gesture well-received by both sides,” the statement said.
Modi and Putin also appreciated the efforts of relevant agencies instrumental in evacuation efforts as well as the transport of life-saving equipment and medicines. They noted that the air-bubble arrangement has served the interim travel needs of citizens of both countries, the statement said.
The two countries also agreed to consider resumption of direct passenger and cargo flights to their pre-pandemic capacity.
The summit talks took place hours after the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries held their inaugural 2+2 dialogue with an aim to widen the ambit of discussions on strategically important issues.
The day began with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu under the framework of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-M&MTC).
Separately, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. Then the foreign and defence ministers of the two sides held the 2+2 dialogue.
Lavrov and Shoygu arrived in New Delhi late on Sunday night.
At the end of the talks between the defence ministers, both sides inked an agreement for joint production of over six lakh AK-203 assault rifles at a manufacturing facility in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi, besides firming up another pact on military cooperation for 10 years. The rifles will be manufactured for the Indian armed forces at a cost of around ₹5,000 crore. The agreements were signed at the 20th meeting of the IRIGC-M&MTC.
(With inputs from agencies)