'We trust India': US plays down India-Russia bonhomie during Modi visit

Pentagon press secretary Major General Pat Ryder said India was a 'strategic partner'

RUSSIA-INDIA/ Russia's President Vladimir Putin and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend an awarding ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow | Reuters

The United States has said it continues to view India as a strategic partner despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting Moscow and exhibiting a warm relationship with President Vladimir Putin, including posing for pictures of the two of them locked in a close embrace.

The two leaders had met on Monday evening for a private hour-long 'restricted meeting' and then on Tuesday while leading the respective delegations for the bilateral meeting.

Of added significance of the India-Russia meeting is that it was held at the same time when NATO was holding a summit in Washington DC that is being attended by all the 32 member countries besides its Indo-Pacific allies Australia, Japan, New Zealand and North Korea.

Although not invited to the NATO meet, India, along with the US, Australia and Japan together form the  Indo-Pacific grouping ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’ or the 'Quad'.

Responding to a query on Tuesday evening, Pentagon Press Secretary Major General Pat Ryder said: "We will continue to view India as a strategic partner. From a US perspective, India is a strategic partner with whom we continue to engage in full and frank dialogue to include their relationship with Russia."

"I don't think anybody will be surprised if President Putin tries to represent this visit in a way that seeks to somehow show he is not isolated from the rest of the world."

Ryder also alluded to the recent meeting between PM Modi and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy: "The PM (Modi) also met recently with the Ukrainian President and assured—and offered his assurances that India will continue to do everything within its means to support a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine."

"I think that we trust that India will support efforts to realize an enduring and just peace for Ukraine and will convey to Mr. Putin the importance of adhering to the UN charter and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity."

And India did exactly that on Tuesday. An official source had said: “India has always called for respecting the UN Charter, including territorial integrity and sovereignty. There is no solution on the battlefield. Dialogue and diplomacy is the way  forward."

But on the day Modi landed in Moscow, Russian missiles hit residential and civilian infrastructure across Ukraine, including in the cities of Kyiv, Kryvyi Rih, Dnipro and Pokrovsk, killing dozens of civilians, including children and injuring more than 150. In Kyiv, the Okhmatdyt National Children’s Specialized Hospital was also hit.

The attack had drawn strong  condemnation for the UN Secretary-General on Tuesday.

The Indian PM also came out with a response: "Any person who believes in humanity feels pain when people die, and  especially when innocent children die... the heart bleeds (hriday chhalni ho jata hai)".

It was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who came out strongly on Tuesday on the Indian PM embracing President Putin in Moscow on the day a children’s hospital was bombed in Kyiv. "It is a huge disappointment and a  devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day," Zelenskyy wrote, referring to the Russian bombing. 

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