After six hours of one-on-one conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi earlier this week, New Delhi and Moscow are going to cooperate in a new area: Afghanistan.
This is the first time that the two countries will undertake a joint project — possibly in the development sector — in Afghanistan. This also comes close on the heels of the informal summit in Wuhan, China, where Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping decided to work on a project in Afghanistan after four hours of one-on-one conversation.
As per The Indian Express sources, Modi proposed the idea for the joint project in Afghanistan, which Putin readily accepted. “Unlike in Wuhan, where Xi had proposed the Afghanistan project, here Modi took the initiative with Russia,” a source said. This assumes significance in the wake of Russia urging the international community, especially the US, to talk to Taliban or face a bloody war for years to come.
However, the Modi-Putin Sochi meet also has its bilateral drivers. The last two-decades of India cosying up to the US has resulted in Russia’s drift towards China and Pakistan, even the Taliban, triggering trends of marginalising India even in South Asia. India’s defence imports from Russia have declined substantially and this will continue given that most of India’s recent procurement deals have been with western nations. Now, Trump’s ‘America First’ has ignited an urgency for New Delhi to mend its ties with Beijing and Moscow, which explains the recent spate of high-level visits as also these back-to-back visits to Wuhan and Sochi.
Earlier, India and China agreed to work jointly on an economic project in Afghanistan during Modi’s informal summit with Chinese leader. As Russia is getting closer to Pakistan that is accused of supporting terrorist groups, the Indian side forcefully argued that the international community needs to differentiate between victims of terrorism of their own making, and others.
The two leaders shared lot of chemistry, and that was evident when Putin – impromptu – decided to come to the airport to see off Modi. What became interesting was that they reached the airport in the car, and kept talking for almost 15 minutes, while everyone else was waiting for them to emerge from the vehicle. This just signifies the comfort level between the two countries.