Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to have directly rejected Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, telling Russian President Vladimir Putin that now is not the time for war.
In what was the latest in a series of setbacks for the Russian leader, Modi told him about the need to “enter a path of peace” and reminded him of the importance of “democracy, diplomacy and dialogue”.
Modi’s comments came during a face-to-face meeting on Friday, on the sidelines of a regional summit, and highlighted Russia’s growing isolation on the diplomatic scene. They came just a day after Putin admitted that China too had “questions and concerns” about the invasion.
“I know that the current era is not of war and we have talked to you many times by phone on the subject that democracy, diplomacy and dialogue are all things that affect the world,” Modi told Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit. in the city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan.
“We will certainly have the opportunity in the coming days to discuss how to move on the path of peace, I will also have the opportunity to understand your position,” he added, according to a readout of the meeting by the Indian Ministry. of Foreign Affairs.
Putin responded by telling the Indian leader that he was aware of his concerns.
“I am aware of your position on the conflict in Ukraine and I am aware of your concerns. We want all of this to stop as soon as possible,” he said.
Modi’s apparent criticism of the Russian invasion is just the latest setback for Putin, whose forces have suffered a series of major defeats on the battlefield in recent weeks. Ukraine claims to have recaptured some 8,000 square kilometers of territory.
Diplomatically, Moscow also appears to be losing, and this was highlighted by exchanges at the summit in Samarkand, which brings together leaders from Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran and four Central Asian countries.
It seemed that Moscow and Beijing would like to present a united front at the summit to counterbalance the United States and its allies.
However, signs of division have emerged over the Russian invasion, which has upset the leaders of former Soviet territories in Central Asia, who fear that Russia could invade their country as well.
India and China are the biggest buyers of Russian oil and the suggestions in recent days that both have reservations about the war give Moscow much food for thought.
Earlier at the summit, after acknowledging China’s concerns, Putin had said: “We value the balanced position of our Chinese friends when it comes to the crisis in Ukraine.”
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New Delhi, like Beijing, has strong ties to Moscow dating back to the Cold War and has so far largely refrained from condemning the invasion by Russia, which remains India’s largest arms supplier.
In a statement released after Friday’s meeting, India’s foreign ministry said discussions between the two leaders “also related to global food security, energy security and fertilizer availability in the context of the challenges posed by the current geopolitical situation.”
“They agreed to keep in touch,” the ministry added.
The meeting comes as heavy shelling continues in areas of southern and eastern Ukraine repossessed by Russian forces. Ukrainian officials said they had discovered at least 440 graves at a mass grave in the city of Izium in the recently liberated region of Kharkiv.