Modi's India Busting Western Sanctions, Funding Russia's War On Ukraine

India, a western ally, is openly buying Russian coal, oil and weapons worth tens of billions of dollars at deep discounts. These actions amount to busting western sanctions and financing President Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine. Many smaller developing countries, including Bangladesh and Pakistan, are abiding by these sanctions and suffering from the consequences in terms of high prices of fuel and food. Why these double standards? Do these policy contractions serve the broader US interests in the Asia region? 

India's Russian Imports Soaring Since the Start of Ukraine War. Source: Reuters

India's Russian coal imports are up 6-fold from May 27 to June 15, 2022, according to Reuters. Delhi's Russian oil buying has jumped 31-fold in this period.  Bulk shipments of Russian thermal coal to India began in the third week of May, 2022. 

India is defying western sanctions to buy millions of barrels of discounted Russian crude oil, hiding their origin and exporting refined petroleum products with a big markup to make a huge profit. China has yet to increase its oil imports from Russia, according to news reports. Meanwhile, India's neighbors Bangladesh and Pakistan are abiding by western sanctions and paying much higher market prices to buy oil for their domestic needs, and hurting their people. Such double standards are not going unnoticed. 

India's Refined Petroleum Exports.Source: MarketWatch


India is importing large amounts of deeply discounted Russian crude, running its refiners well above capacity, and capturing the economic rent of sky-high crack spreads and exporting gasoline and diesel to Europe, according to MarketWatch.  “As the EU weans from Russian refined products, we have a growing suspicion that India is becoming the de facto refining hub for Europe,” said Michael Tran, global energy strategist at RBC Capital Markets, in a Tuesday note. Here’s how the puzzle pieces fit together, according to Tran:

"India is buying record amounts of severely discounted Russian crude, running its refiners above nameplate capacity, and capturing the economic rent of sky-high crack spreads and exporting gasoline and diesel to Europe. In short, the EU policy of tightening the screws on Russia is a policy win, but the unintended consequence is that Europe is effectively importing inflation to its own citizens. This is not only an economic boon for India, but it also serves as an accelerator for India’s place in the new geopolitically rewritten oil trade map. What we mean is that the EU policy effectively makes India an increasingly vital energy source for Europe. This was historically never the case, and it is why Indian product exports have been clocking in at all-time-high levels over recent months". 

Bangladesh and Pakistan are afraid to buy Russian oil for fear of western sanctions while American ally India feels free to do so.  Pakistan's Imran Khan sought to buy Russian oil and gas before he was removed from power in early April. Pakistani Finance Minister Miftah Ismail told CNN's Becky Anderson in a recent interview, “It is very difficult for me to imagine buying Russian oil. At this point I think that it would not be possible for Pakistani banks to open LCs or arrange to buy Russian oil". Similarly, Bangladeshi foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said, “Russia has offered to sell oil and wheat to us, but we can’t do it out of fears of sanctions. We asked [India] how they did it [import oil from Russia]. They [India] said they have found some tricks,” Momen added. 

The West, particularly the United States, is turning a blind eye to India's actions when it comes to busting sanctions on Russia. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is openly funding the war in Ukraine by buying weapons and energy from Russia. At the same time, India's smaller neighbors feel intimidated by the threat of western sanctions if they follow Modi's example. Such double standards are not going unnoticed. 

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Comment by Riaz Haq on August 5, 2022 at 8:37am

#India turns to #Russian #fertilizer, showing challenge of isolating #Moscow over #Ukraine. Imports from Russia are up sharply and come on top of record shipments to India of discounted Russian #oil. #Ukraine️war #US #Modi #energy #inflation #economy https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/08/04/india-russia-fertil...

India has dramatically increased its imports of fertilizer from Russia in recent months, demonstrating the difficulties the United States and its allies face in isolating Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine.

From April to June, India imported 7.74 million tons of Russian fertilizer, a figure representing about two-thirds of all its fertilizer imports from Russia last year, making the country India’s top supplier, according to information provided in Parliament by the minister of chemicals and fertilizers, Mansukh Mandaviya.

These shipments, including urea and nitrogen-based fertilizers, come on top of record imports of discounted Russian oil. Although Persian Gulf countries remain India’s top suppliers of crude oil, India in July bought about 1 million barrels a day from Russia, a sharp increase since the beginning of the year, according to Bloomberg News. Government data shows that India spent $3.7 billion on Russian oil between January and May, up more than 350 percent from the same period last year.

As the war in Ukraine continues, so does the challenge Western countries face in seeking to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military campaign without hurting the poorest in the world. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres recently warned that vulnerable countries would be on the verge of famine without Russian food and fertilizers.

“There is no option,” agriculture expert Devinder Sharma said of India’s increased fertilizer imports from Russia. “Agricultural production will come under stress without adequate fertilizer supplies.”

Unlike oil, fertilizer is not included in the U.S. sanctions placed on Russia because of the invasion.

For India, this year’s monsoon-season rice crop is crucial after a scorching heat wave in March damaged the country’s staple wheat crop and reduced yields. With food stocks depleted and the climate uncertain, India banned wheat exports this year, saying its food security was “at risk.”

The country has shied away from joining the Western coalition arrayed against Russia, initially because of its dependence on Moscow for weaponry and now because of concerns over energy and food security.

India’s imports of Russian coal and sunflower oil also have jumped. Overall, Russia has become the 10th-largest source of imports to India, according to data from the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry, ranking much higher than in previous years. Through May, India imported goods worth $8.3 billion from Russia, nearly triple the value for the same period last year.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 10, 2022 at 4:54pm

The (Chinese) yuan accounted for 31% of the non-US dollar payments for Russian coal in June and the Hong Kong dollar for 28%. The euro made up under a quarter and the Emirati dirham around one-sixth, the data from the trade source showed.

In June, Indian buyers paid for at least 742,000 tonnes of Russian coal using currencies other than the US dollar, according to a summary of deals compiled by a trade source based in India using customs documents and shared with Reuters, equal to 44% of the 1.7 million of tonnes of Russian imports that month.

https://thewire.in/business/indian-companies-are-swapping-dollar-fo....


Indian companies are using Asian currencies more often to pay for Russian coal imports, according to customs documents and industry sources, avoiding the US dollar and cutting the risk of breaching Western sanctions against Moscow.

Reuters previously reported on a large Indian coal deal involving the Chinese yuan, but the customs data underline how non-dollar settlements are becoming commonplace.

India has aggressively stepped up purchases of Russian oil and coal since the war in Ukraine began, helping to cushion Moscow from the effects of sanctions and allowing New Delhi to secure raw materials at discounts compared to supplies from other countries.

Russia became India’s third-largest coal supplier in July, with imports rising by over a fifth compared with June to a record 2.06 million tonnes.

In June, Indian buyers paid for at least 742,000 tonnes of Russian coal using currencies other than the US dollar, according to a summary of deals compiled by a trade source based in India using customs documents and shared with Reuters, equal to 44% of the 1.7 million of tonnes of Russian imports that month.

Indian steelmakers and cement manufacturers have bought Russian coal using the United Arab Emirates dirham, Hong Kong dollar, yuan and euro in recent weeks, according to customs documents separately reviewed by Reuters.

The yuan accounted for 31% of the non-US dollar payments for Russian coal in June and the Hong Kong dollar for 28%. The euro made up under a quarter and the Emirati dirham around one-sixth, the data from the trade source showed.

The Ministry of Finance, which administers the customs board, did not respond to emails seeking comment confirming the documents. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry declined to comment.

The Reserve Bank of India also did not respond to requests for comment.

The RBI has approved payments for commodities in the Indian rupee, a move it expects to boost bilateral trade with Russia in its own currency.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 13, 2022 at 7:33am

#US says #India hid #Russian origin of fuel shipped to the #UnitedStates. US Treasury Dept told India that an Indian ship picked up $oil from a Russian tanker on the high seas, brought it to a port in #Gujarat where it was refined and shipped to US. #Modi https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/us-says-india-hid-russian-o...

The United States has expressed concern to India that it was being used to export fuel made from Russian crude, through high-seas transfers to hide its origin, to New York in violation of US sanctions, a top Indian central banker said on Saturday

The US Treasury Department told India that an Indian ship picked up oil from a Russian tanker on the high seas and brought it to a port in Gujarat on the west coast, where it was refined and shipped on, said Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor Michael Patra.

US sanctions on Moscow for its February invasion of Ukraine prohibit the import to the United States of Russian-origin energy products including crude oil, refined fuels, distillates, coal and gas.

"The refined output was put back on that ship and it set sail without a destination. In the mid-seas it received the destination so it reached at its course, went to New York," Patra said at an event to celebrate 75 years of India's independence.

The US embassy in New Delhi said it had no immediate comment.

Patra's comments are India's first official public reference to such U.S. concerns. Delhi has not joined the sanctions against Russia or condemned what Moscow calls a "special military operation" in its neighbour.

Patra said he was told the Russian crude was processed and converted into a distillate used for making single-use plastic. He did not identify the Indian vessel or refiner.

"The refined output was put back on that ship and it set sail without a destination. In the mid-seas it received the destination so it reached at its course, went to New York," Patra said at an event to celebrate 75 years of India's independence.

The US embassy in New Delhi said it had no immediate comment.

Patra's comments are India's first official public reference to such U.S. concerns. Delhi has not joined the sanctions against Russia or condemned what Moscow calls a "special military operation" in its neighbour.

Patra said he was told the Russian crude was processed and converted into a distillate used for making single-use plastic. He did not identify the Indian vessel or refiner.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 17, 2022 at 7:25am

South Asia Index
@SouthAsiaIndex
Just IN:— "Every barrel of Russian oil delivered to India has Ukrainian blood in it." -Ukraine Foreign Minister.

https://twitter.com/SouthAsiaIndex/status/1559875066967588865?s=20&...

--------------

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday upped the ante on India saying it has "Ukrainian blood" on its hands for buying Russian oil. Several Western nations, including the US and the UK, have urged India to not purchase oil from Russia but India has remained committed to what it calls "Indian interests". On Tuesday, at a 9th India-Thailand Joint Commission Meeting, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said the US and some others may not appreciate India buying Russian oil, but they have accepted it. Jaishankar added that New Delhi has not been defensive about its stand but made them realise that the government had the "moral duty" to ensure that the people got the "best deal".

A day later, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba held a press briefing and said, "Every barrel of Russian crude oil delivered to India has a good portion of Ukrainian blood in it."

https://www.news9live.com/world/every-barrel-of-russian-oil-deliver...

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 17, 2022 at 8:37am

The United States has told India that an Indian ship was used earlier this year to export fuel made from Russian crude to New York through high-seas transfers, a top Indian central bank official said on Saturday.


https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/indian-sh....

The U.S. Treasury Department told India that an Indian ship picked up oil from a Russian tanker on the high seas and brought it to a port in Gujarat on the west coast, where it was refined and shipped on, said Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor Michael Patra.

U.S. sanctions on Moscow for its February invasion of Ukraine prohibit the import to the United States of Russian-origin energy products including crude oil, refined fuels, distillates, coal and gas.

"The refined output was put back on that ship and it set sail without a destination. In the mid-seas it received the destination so it reached at its course, went to New York," Patra said at an event to celebrate 75 years of India's independence.

The U.S. embassy in New Delhi said it had no immediate comment.

Patra's comments are India's first official public reference to such U.S. concerns. Delhi has not joined the sanctions against Russia or condemned what Moscow calls a "special military operation" in its neighbour.

Patra said he was told the Russian crude was processed and converted into a distillate used for making single-use plastic. He did not identify the Indian vessel or refiner.

"So that's the way war works. It works in strange ways," he said.

India, the world's number 3 oil importer and consumer rarely bought Russian oil in the past. But since the war started, Indian refiners have been snapping up discounted Russian oil, shunned by many Western countries and companies.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 1, 2022 at 7:01pm

#Biden's effort to isolate #Russia has a big problem: #India. India accounted for less than 1% of Russia's #oil exports prior to the invasion, but was up to 13% by July, helping to offset Russia's lost market share in #Europe. #UkraineRussiaWar #Modi #US https://www.axios.com/2022/09/01/india-russian-oil-military-exercises

Two global powers are undercutting Western efforts to isolate Russia and deplete the Kremlin coffers as they scale up purchases of Russian oil and join Russia this week in major military exercises.

Why it matters: One of those countries is China, which has moved closer to Moscow amid its confrontation with the U.S. The other, though, is India — one of Washington's most valued partners, which has taken a neutral position on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

How it happened: The EU was by far the top destination for Russian oil prior to February's invasion of Ukraine, but EU countries have cut back their purchases and plan to end nearly all imports of Russian oil by year's end.

Even still, Russia's oil revenues are on track to jump by 38% this year, per Reuters. Asked about that projection this week, a White House spokesperson said it had made clear to countries that this is no time for "business as usual with Russia."
For China and India, it's been far beyond business as usual — they've both dramatically increased their purchases. India accounted for less than 1% of Russia's oil exports prior to the invasion, but was up to 13% by July, helping to offset Russia's lost market share in Europe.
Yes, but: That's due not to politics, but price. Prices from the Gulf have been sky-high, Russia is selling at a discount, and India is trying to keep inflation down and recover economically from the pandemic, Tanvi Madan of Brookings tells Axios.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has called it an "obligation and moral duty" to get the lowest-possible energy prices for Indian consumers. Russia, meanwhile, has praised India for resisting Western pressure.
What to watch: To stop Russia from benefiting from the high oil prices that its invasion helped create, the White House wants to put a price cap on Russian oil. G7 finance ministers will discuss that proposal on Friday.

For it to be effective, they'll need India on board. U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo visited New Delhi last week and said he'd had "a very constructive conversation" with Indian officials on the cap.
India has thus far been noncommittal. It stands to benefit from lower prices, but will be wary of provoking Moscow — particularly considering its military's overwhelming reliance on Russian arms.

Zoom out: The long-standing military relationship between India and Russia is on display this week at the Vostok war games in Russia's far east, which will also include China and several other countries.

India's troops will be "full-fledged" participants, not just observers, a source briefed on the matter tells Axios. The source noted that India has taken part in similar exercises in the past but doesn't "always publicize it."
Asked about India's participation, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the U.S. "has concerns about any country exercising with Russia while Russia wages an unprovoked, brutal war against Ukraine."
Between the lines: She avoided any direct criticism of India and dodged a follow-up as to whether the U.S. has pressured India to stop helping Russia, as it has pressured China.

The Biden administration recognizes that India's long-standing relationship with Russia won't fade away overnight, and while it's trying to help New Delhi diversify its arms supply away from Russia, the U.S. priority is deepening coordination in the Indo-Pacific, Madan says.
The bottom line: India is too important to the U.S. strategy toward one top rival, China, to push back too hard as it undermines U.S. policy toward the other.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 9, 2022 at 8:54pm

As the world lurches through the growing pains of massive geopolitical change, the US’ relationship with India will increasingly take center stage. Washington likes to see itself as providing a geopolitical center of gravity that is inherently attractive to nations like India, especially against regional competitors such as China. As the US is about to discover, however, India and China have a shared ambition about who should dominate the Pacific in the coming century, and it doesn’t include the US. Op Ed by Scott Ritter

https://www.energyintel.com/00000183-21d9-d467-adc7-21fdd54f0000

On Aug. 19, India’s minister of external affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, gave a speech at a university in Thailand where he stated that relations between India and China were going through “an extremely difficult phase” and that an “Asian Century” seemed unlikely unless the two nations found a way to “join hands” and start working together.

For many observers, Jaishankar’s speech was taken as an opportunity for the US to drive a wedge between India and China, exploiting an ongoing border dispute along the Himalayan frontier to push India further into a pro-US orbit together with other Western-leaning regional powers. What these observers overlooked, however, was that the Indian minister was seeking the exact opposite from his speech, signaling that India was, in fact, interested in working with China to develop joint policies that would seek to replace US-led Western hegemony in the Pacific.

Struggle for Leadership

More than six decades ago, then-US Senator John F. Kennedy noted that there was a “struggle between India and China for the economic and political leadership of the East, for the respect of all Asia, for the opportunity to demonstrate whose way of life is the better.” The US, Kennedy argued, needed to focus on providing India the help it needed to win that struggle — even if India wasn’t asking for that help or, indeed, seeking to “win” any geopolitical contest with China.

Today, the relationships between the US, India and China have matured, with all three wrestling with complex, and often contradictory, policies that are simultaneously cooperative and confrontational. Notwithstanding this, the US continues to err on the side of helping India achieve a geopolitical “win” over China. One need only consider the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad,” conceived in 2007, but dormant until 2017, when it was resurrected under US leadership to bring together the US, Japan, Australia and India in an effort to create a regional counterweight to China’s growing influence.

There was a time when cooler heads cautioned against such an assertive US-led posture on a regional response to an expansive, and expanding, Chinese presence in the Indo-Pacific region. This line of thinking held that strong Indian relationships with Tokyo and Canberra should be allowed to naturally progress, independent of US regional ambitions.

These same “cool heads” argued that the US needed to be realistic in its expectations on relations between India and China, avoiding the pitfalls of Cold War-era “zero-sum game” calculations. The US should appreciate that India needed to implement a foreign policy that best met Indian needs. Moreover, they argued, a US-Indian relationship that was solely focused on China would not age well, given the transitory realities of a changing global geopolitical dynamic.

The Asian Century

The key to deciphering Jaishanker’s strategic intent in his Thailand comments lay in his use of the term “Asian Century.” This echoed the words of former Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping, who, in a meeting with former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, declared that “in recent years people have been saying that the next century will be the century of Asia and the Pacific, as if that were sure to be the case. I disagree with this view.” Deng went on to explain that unless China and India focus their respective and collective energies on developing their economies, there could, in fact, be no “Asian Century.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 9, 2022 at 8:55pm

The Asian Century

The key to deciphering Jaishanker’s strategic intent in his Thailand comments lay in his use of the term “Asian Century.” This echoed the words of former Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping, who, in a meeting with former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, declared that “in recent years people have been saying that the next century will be the century of Asia and the Pacific, as if that were sure to be the case. I disagree with this view.” Deng went on to explain that unless China and India focus their respective and collective energies on developing their economies, there could, in fact, be no “Asian Century.”

While Washington may not have heard the subtle implications of Jainshankar’s words, Beijing appears to have done so. Almost immediately after the text of the Indian minister’s comments was made public, the spokesperson for China’s foreign minister declared that both India and China “have the wisdom and capability to help each other succeed rather than undercutting each other.” The takeaway from this exchange is that while both China and India view their ongoing territorial disputes as problematic, they are able and willing to keep their eye on the bigger picture — the ascendancy of the so-called “Asian Century”.

The fact is that India and China have been working toward this goal for some time now. Both are critical participants in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which envisions the growth and empowerment of a trans-Eurasian economic zone that can compete with the economies of the US and Europe on a global scale. Likewise, India and China are actively cooperating within the framework of the Brics economic forum, which is emerging as a direct competitor to the Western-dominated G7.

While it is possible for India to navigate a policy path balancing the US and China in the short term, eventually it will need to go all in on China if its aspirations for an “Asian Century” are ever to be met. This narrative is overlooked by those in the US pursuing zero-sum policies with India when it comes to China.

Given the destiny inherent in the collective embrace of an “Asian Century” by India and China, the US could well find itself on the outside looking in when it comes to those wielding influence in the Pacific going forward. One thing is for certain — the “American Pacific Century” which encompasses the period between the Spanish-American War and the post-Cold War era, where US military, political, and economic power reigned supreme, has run its course. Whether or not India and China will be able to supplant it with an “Asian Century” is yet to be seen. But one thing is for certain — the strategic intent is certainly there.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer whose service over a 20-plus-year career included tours of duty in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control agreements, serving on the staff of US Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during the Gulf War and later as a chief weapons inspector with the UN in Iraq from 1991-98. The views expressed in this article are those of the author.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 15, 2022 at 7:16am

Narendra Modi’s Outreach to Vladimir Putin Risks Putting India in US Crosshairs - Bloomberg

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-15/modi-s-outreach-...


Modi so far has managed to thread the needle between the two sides. But “no matter how much India wants to maintain the Russia relationship,” says @horror06 (Indrani Bagchi), “this is going to get more difficult as time goes by”


As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets Russia’s Vladimir Putin and attends a summit with China’s Xi Jinping on Friday, he’ll need to avoid looking too chummy with the US’s two top adversaries.

Modi’s face-to-face meeting with Putin will take place Friday in Uzbekistan, where a host of leaders are gathering for a summit of the Chinese-founded Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a group intended to counter the US-led global system. At that event, he’ll also rub shoulders with Xi, whom Modi hasn’t met in person since late 2019.


With Russia’s war in Ukraine in its seventh month, India has emerged as one of the biggest swing nations. The US and its allies have so far largely avoided pressuring New Delhi over its close ties with Russia, a key supplier of weapons and energy. That’s partly to keep Modi on its side against China in part through the Quad, a grouping that also includes Japan and Australia.

Modi so far has managed to thread the needle between the two sides while advancing India’s own interests. He’s sought cheaper oil and much-needed weapons, to counter Beijing’s aggression along their disputed Himalayan border and more investments from the US and its allies seeking to diversify supply chains away from China.

But whether he can keep that up is another question. The early tolerance for India’s position, along with its insistence that it would take time to unwind its deep security relationship with Russia, is beginning to run into greater resistance as the US and its allies ramp up efforts to impose a cap on the price for Russian oil to cut Putin’s income.



“India’s neutral public positioning on the invasion has raised difficult questions in Washington DC about our alignment of values and interests,” said Richard Rossow, a senior adviser on India policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Such engagements -- especially if they trigger new or expanded areas of cooperation that benefit Russia -- will further erode interest among Washington policy makers for providing India a ‘pass’ on tough sanctions decision.”

So far, the Biden administration has signaled it’s not interested in sanctioning New Delhi over its recent decision to buy the S-400 missile defense system from Russia. Turkey’s purchase of the same system deeply damaged US ties with the NATO ally.

Yet friction points are emerging. India has been pushing back on a price cap on Russian oil suggested by the US as its crude imports surged five times to cross $5 billion in the three months to the end of May.



Last week, the White House approved a $450 million package to upgrade the F-16 fighter jet fleet of India’s historic rival Pakistan -- a move New Delhi opposed.

And India also angered Japan by recently joining the Russia-led Vostok-2022 military exercises held around a group of islands known as the southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan -- a territorial dispute that dates back to the end of World War II. India ended up scaling back its participation in the war games -- especially staying out of naval drills -- out of deference to Japan, but it left a mark.

One Japanese official, who asked not to be named discussing a sensitive topic, asked whether India would be comfortable if Japanese troops had participated in drills with Pakistan’s military but merely skipped exercises in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 15, 2022 at 7:17am

Narendra Modi’s Outreach to Vladimir Putin Risks Putting India in US Crosshairs - Bloomberg

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-15/modi-s-outreach-...


India’s Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment. Japan’s Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment made outside of office hours.

“The challenge for India is managing a declining relationship with Russia, nurturing a growing relationship with the US and securing its interests on all sides as a growing power,” said Indrani Bagchi, chief executive officer of the Ananta Aspen Centre, a research group on international relations and public policy. “No matter how much India wants to maintain the Russia relationship, this is going to get more difficult as time goes by.”



Modi appears aware of the optics toward the US. He was set to fly into Uzbekistan late on Thursday, missing an official dinner to kick off the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit that would’ve produced plenty of photo opportunities with both Xi and Putin, according to people familiar with the situation, who asked not to be named.



India’s partners in the West will be closely watching the tone of any statements after Modi’s meeting with Putin. One particular area of interest is trade: In the first seven months this year, India’s imports from Russia stood at a little over $13 billion compared with just $2 billion a year earlier, according to Commerce Ministry figures. India’s exports to Russia dipped to $700 million in the same period compared to $950 million a year earlier.

While India’s historical connection with Russia will be tough to break, officials in New Delhi are more wary of China. The “no limits” friendship reached by Xi and Putin earlier this year also may factor into India’s long term strategic planning as tensions with China continue to simmer along their contested Himalayan border despite a recent pull-back of troops.



“Increasingly there are suggestions that Russia will largely follow China, especially after the Ukraine crisis,” said Harsh Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College London. “And that is going to be one big part of the puzzle that India will have to solve.”

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