President Vladimir Putin touted Russia’s close ties with India in a phone call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as world leaders prepare to gather in New Delhi next week for the Group of 20 summit.

Relations between the countries are “developing progressively in the spirit of a specially privileged strategic partnership,” according to a statement from the Kremlin on Monday. Both nations plan to carry out large-scale energy projects and expand transport and logistics infrastructure, the statement said according to reports AlArabia English News service.

India’s readout of the meeting avoided any characterization of the relationship, mentioning only that Putin confirmed Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would attend the summit on behalf of Russia.

It also said the leaders exchanged views on global issues, including the BRICS summit in South Africa last week — a meeting Putin also didn’t attend in person, in part because of the risk he would be arrested for alleged war crimes under a warrant issued by the International Criminal Court.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, India has emerged as one of the biggest swing nations. It has maintained close ties with the US but abstained from votes at the United Nations to condemn the war and avoided joining US-led sanctions against Russia, which remains a major supplier of weapons and cheap energy.

The language over Russia’s war in Ukraine will again be a hot topic at the G-20 summit. It’s unclear if Modi can broker a compromise similar to the one forged by Indonesia last November, particularly as tensions remain high between India and China — one of Russia’s biggest diplomatic brokers.

Although Putin didn’t attend BRICS in person, he still joined the meetings via video link. Russia said he discussed with Modi the agreement to expand membership beyond Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, adding that the move would boost the bloc’s influence in world affairs.

The push for expansion was largely driven by China, but had Russia and South Africa’s support. India remains concerned a bigger BRICS would transform the group into a mouthpiece for China, while Brazil was worried about alienating the West.

Putin will have more visibility on the international stage next year when Russia takes on the role of BRICS chair.
He has rarely left Russia since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, which sparked a wave of international condemnation and sanctions by the US and its partners.

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