New Delhi (Reuters) – India and Russia agreed to strengthen their defence partnership in talks between their defence ministers on Friday, the Indian government said, amid worries in New Delhi that the war in Ukraine was hurting its own military supplies from Moscow.
Rajnath Singh and Sergei Shoigu held talks on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) defence ministers’ gathering in New Delhi.
“They acknowledged the unique, long-lasting and time-tested relationship between India and Russia,” the statement said.
They “expressed satisfaction over the continued trust and mutual respect between the two countries, particularly in defence and reiterated their commitment towards strengthening the partnership,” it said, without elaborating.
India, the world’s largest arms importer, depends on Russia for nearly half its military supplies, and has bought fighter jets, tanks, nuclear submarines and an aircraft carrier over the decades.
But the war in Ukraine has held up supplies of Russian spares critical for India to maintain its tank and fighter jet fleets and delayed the delivery of Russian air defence systems.
India has refused to publicly blame Russia for the war in Ukraine and has increased its trade with Moscow to a record high, driven largely by the import of Russian oil.
Several Western leaders have criticised India’s proximity to Russia as they try to isolate Moscow since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. New Delhi says it defending its interests in buying Russian oil and has pushed for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Moscow, which faces an expected counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces in the coming weeks, hosted the defence ministers of Iran, Syria and Turkey on Tuesday and Shoigu also held talks with China’s defence minister on April 18.
Shoigu told the SCO meeting that the real aim of the West in Ukraine is to strategically defeat Russia, to pose a threat to China, and to maintain its own monopoly position, Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported.