The leaders met on the sidelines of G7 summit ahead of Swiss ‘peace’ talks that aim to woo the countries of the Global South  © X/narendramodi

The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on Friday said he had a “productive meeting” with Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky on the sidelines of the ongoing G7 summit in Italy. The premier’s delegation at the bilateral meeting included External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Modi noted that India is “eager” to “cement” bilateral relations with Ukraine. He also set out New Delhi’s unchanged position on the conflict. “Regarding the ongoing hostilities, [I have] reiterated that India believes in a human-centric approach and believes that the way to peace is through dialogue and diplomacy,” he wrote.

The two leaders reviewed bilateral ties and exchanged views on the situation in Ukraine, according to India’s foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal. “The PM conveyed that India continues to encourage peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy,” he posted on X.

While addressing an outreach session of the G7 summit about technology and other issues, Modi noted that the countries of the Global South are “bearing the brunt of global uncertainties and tensions” and that India has considered it its responsibility “to put the priorities and concerns of the countries of the Global South on the world stage.”

Since the escalation of Russia-Ukraine hostilities in early 2022, New Delhi has maintained a balanced approach to the conflict and its parties, continuing to expand ties with the West while maintaining strategic partnership with Moscow and ramping up energy-resource procurement, despite tight scrutiny from Washington and Brussels.

On Wednesday, India said that it would participate in the upcoming Swiss-hosted talks on Ukraine at an “appropriate level.” Zelensky, commenting on meeting with Modi on his Telegram channel, thanked the Indian leader for sending a “high-level” delegation.

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Kiev has been making substantial efforts to see Modi’s personal participation in the ‘peace conference,’ which is being held without Russia’s participation.

In March, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba traveled to Delhi to discuss India’s participation and to seek support for Kiev’s ‘peace formula’ for the conflict – one which Moscow has rejected. In his interviews with Indian media Kuleba claimed that New Delhi’s relationship with Russia is based on the Soviet legacy, which is “extinct and has no future.” In contrast, Ukraine-India relations have “more [of a] future,” he insisted, while suggesting that India could “influence the way Russia behaves” because of its close ties to Moscow.

Kuleba’s statements are in sharp contrast to New Delhi’s assertions about its “time-tested” relationship with Moscow. According to its foreign minister, Russia and India take “extra care” to look after each other’s interests. Bilateral trade between the two surged to $65 billion last year, boosted largely by Indian imports of Russian oil.

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