PM Modi’s first bilateral visit this term: Russia’s importance for India

PM Modi’s first bilateral visit underscores Russia’s strategic importance.

PM Modi’s first bilateral visit underscores Russia’s strategic importance.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Russia highlights the significance of India-Russia ties, particularly in the energy and defense sectors. This trip underscores India’s commitment to maintaining strong bilateral relations with Russia, which are crucial for India’s strategic interests. Additionally, New Delhi aims to ensure that China does not become a factor in the India-Russia relationship, seeking to keep their partnership independent of external influences. This visit reaffirms the historical and multifaceted cooperation between India and Russia, emphasizing the importance of collaboration in key areas for both nations’ mutual benefit.

Prime Minister Modi’s Russia Visit Highlights India-Russia Ties Amid Global Tensions

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin on July 8 and 9 underscores the enduring importance of India-Russia relations, particularly in the realms of energy and defense. This visit marks the first meeting between the two leaders since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, an event that resulted in significant Western sanctions against Russia. Modi’s decision to choose Russia for his first bilateral visit after being sworn in for his second term breaks with the tradition of new Indian Prime Ministers traveling first to neighboring countries, signaling a strategic pivot in India’s foreign policy.

Historical Context of India-Russia Relations

India and Russia have shared a long-standing and robust partnership that spans several decades. The relationship, rooted in mutual respect and strategic interests, has been marked by cooperation in various sectors, including defense, energy, space, and technology. Since Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, he and Putin have met a total of 16 times, reflecting the high level of engagement between the two countries. Modi last visited Russia in September 2019 for the Eastern Economic Forum meeting in Vladivostok, while Putin’s last visit to India was in December 2021 for the annual bilateral summit.

Significance of Modi’s Visit to Russia

  1. Energy Security:
    Russia plays a crucial role in India’s energy security strategy. As one of the world’s largest producers of oil and natural gas, Russia is a key supplier to India’s growing energy market. During this visit, Modi is expected to discuss long-term energy cooperation, including potential investments in Russia’s energy sector and increased imports of Russian oil and gas. These discussions are particularly significant given the global energy market’s volatility and the impact of Western sanctions on Russia’s energy exports.
  2. Defense Cooperation:
    Defense cooperation remains a cornerstone of India-Russia relations. Russia is a major supplier of military hardware to India, and the two countries have engaged in several joint defense projects. Modi’s visit will likely focus on enhancing this cooperation, including the progress of ongoing projects such as the production of the AK-203 rifles in India and the delivery of the S-400 air defense systems. Strengthening defense ties is crucial for India, especially in the context of regional security dynamics and the modernization of its armed forces.
  3. Strategic Autonomy and Multipolarity:
    Modi’s visit to Russia also reflects India’s commitment to maintaining strategic autonomy and promoting a multipolar world order. By engaging with Russia, India signals its intention to balance its relationships with major global powers, including the United States and China. This approach allows India to navigate the complex geopolitical landscape and protect its national interests without being overly reliant on any single country.

China Factor in India-Russia Relations

A critical aspect of Modi’s visit will be to ensure that China does not become a dominant factor in the India-Russia relationship. Russia and China have strengthened their ties in recent years, especially in response to Western pressure. However, India aims to keep its relationship with Russia independent of China’s influence. This is particularly important given the ongoing border tensions between India and China and the broader strategic rivalry in the Indo-Pacific region.

Modi’s visit will likely emphasize the unique and independent nature of India-Russia relations, highlighting areas of cooperation that do not intersect with China’s interests. This approach aims to reassure both Moscow and New Delhi of their bilateral ties’ stability and resilience amidst shifting global dynamics.

Breaking Tradition: Strategic Implications

Modi’s choice of Russia for his first bilateral visit after being sworn in breaks with the tradition of new Indian Prime Ministers traveling first to neighboring countries. In 2014, Modi’s first foreign visit was to Bhutan, followed by visits to the Maldives and Sri Lanka in 2019. This departure from tradition signals a strategic pivot in India’s foreign policy, highlighting the importance of Russia as a key global partner.

This visit follows Modi’s trip to Italy for a multilateral meeting of G7 leaders, emphasizing India’s active engagement on the global stage. By prioritizing Russia, Modi sends a clear message about India’s commitment to maintaining a balanced and diversified foreign policy, engaging with major powers on both bilateral and multilateral platforms.

Potential Outcomes and Future Directions

Modi’s visit to Russia is expected to yield several key outcomes:

  1. Enhanced Energy Cooperation:
    Agreements and discussions on expanding energy cooperation, including increased imports of Russian oil and gas and potential joint ventures in the energy sector.
  2. Strengthened Defense Ties:
    Progress on joint defense projects, potential new defense agreements, and reaffirmation of the strategic defense partnership between the two countries.
  3. Strategic Dialogue:
    High-level discussions on regional and global issues, including the situation in Ukraine, the Indo-Pacific region, and ways to enhance bilateral cooperation in multilateral forums.
  4. Economic and Trade Relations:
    Initiatives to boost economic and trade relations, including exploring new areas of cooperation in technology, agriculture, and infrastructure development.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia underscores the enduring significance of India-Russia relations, particularly in the context of energy security, defense cooperation, and strategic autonomy. By choosing Russia for his first bilateral visit after being sworn in, Modi signals a strategic pivot in India’s foreign policy, emphasizing the importance of maintaining strong ties with major global powers.

The visit aims to enhance cooperation in key areas, address the China factor in the bilateral relationship, and reinforce the independent and unique nature of India-Russia ties. As the global geopolitical landscape continues to evolve, India’s engagement with Russia will remain a critical component of its foreign policy strategy, ensuring that it can navigate complex challenges and protect its national interests.

Modi’s meetings with President Putin are expected to reaffirm the deep-rooted partnership between the two countries, paving the way for further collaboration and mutual benefit. As India and Russia continue to strengthen their ties, this visit marks an important step in shaping the future of their bilateral relations and contributing to regional and global stability.

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