What prompted Modi to meet Putin at such short notice?

Modi will visit Sochi for an “informal summit”, the foreign ministry said

modi-putin-file (File) Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) will meet Russia President Vladimir Putin on May 21

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's upcoming trip to Russia (on May 21) has taken people by surprise. Such visits are usually planned months in advance and have a set agenda, with several accompanying events. But the ministry of external affairs announced, without any preamble, Modi's visit to Sochi to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for an “informal summit”, adding that it was in keeping with “our tradition of regular consultations between India and Russia at the highest levels”.

The note said that the two leaders will discuss their respective national developmental priorities and bilateral matters. The summit would allow Putin and Modi to exchange their views on international matters in a broad and long term perspective with the objective of further strengthening the special and privileged strategic partnership, the ministry said.

What could the “national developmental priorities” and “international matters” be that required this sudden and hastily arranged summit? Could it be the decision of US President Donald Trump to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal? The deal, which had been put together by his predecessor Barack Obama, was cancelled a few days ago. The decision has sent shockwaves across the world because though Trump had been talking about it, there was the hope that like the trade war with China, and the hostilities with North Korea, perhaps this, too, would get resolved.

India has forged rather robust ties with Iran and has invested heavily in the Chabahar port. Partnering with Iran now could have repercussions on the bilateral relations with the US. At a briefing a few days ago, ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said it was too early, but India would search for its options and do what was best for its interests.

Although the US has walked away from the deal, the European Union is still supporting Iran.