Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Tashkent last week to discuss a range of bilateral and multilateral issues of mutual concern.

The two leaders also shared views on important global issues, including Brexit and India’s ‘failed’ NSG membership bid. A senior official of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs has said that Prime Minister Modi and President Putin agreed to boost Indo-Russian ties in the changing global geopolitical scenario. The Russian president, who is pleased that a divided and distracted Europe (after the Brexit) will have less time to bother about what Russia does in Ukraine, told PM Modi that it was the right time for New Delhi and Moscow to boost trade ties, as Europe was in deep trouble due to Brtain’s exit from the European Union (EU). According to the Russian president, the two “friendly” nations should take the advantage of Britain’s exit from the bloc. Meanwhile, Putin assured the Indian premier that Russia would enhance co-operation with the South Asian country in the civil nuclear energy and hydrocarbon sector.

They further discussed the future of BRICS (the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), with Putin saying that Moscow was looking forward to New Delhi’s chairmanship of the grouping. Despite China’s opposition to India’s NSG membership bid, the Russian president expressed hope that the two Asian neighbours would work together and help BRICS emerge as the most powerful bloc in the coming years.

Prime Minister Modi thanked President Putin for supporting India’s NSG membership bid and vowed to take forward the “special and privileged” bilateral partnership. He said that India, as BRICS chair, would keep up the momentum generated by Russia. The PM also invited the Russian president to attend the BRICS Summit in New Delhi later this year.

Speaking at a press conference in the Indian capital, spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry Vikas Swarup said: “The two leaders discussed co-operation in civil nuclear energy, partnership in the gas and petrochemicals sector. They also discussed furthering co-operation in the space sector. Matters relating to trade and investment also came up.” Swarup told reporters: “Both leaders recalled old cultural connections and agreed to find ways of further invigorating cultural ties.”

Russian Ambassador to New Delhi Alexander Kadakin, too, expressed satisfaction over the current state of bilateral ties. “Russia remains India’s leading partner in the field of military-technical co-operation and peaceful nuclear technologies,” he said on Tuesday. The envoy also welcomed President Putin’s proposal to create a large partnership between the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and countries, including India, Iran, Pakistan, as well as members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), in the coming days. Speaking at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Putin said that the Asian countries should join hands with Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan to boost trade ties. India began free trade negotiations with the EEU in June 2015 and later signed a framework agreement.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]