PM Modi speaks to Russia’s Putin, congratulates him for constitutional reform vote

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on the successful completion of a vote on constitutional amendments even as the Russian side reiterated its commitment to strengthening the bilateral special strategic partnership.

Modi was the first world leader to speak to Putin after Russian voters approved changes to the constitution that will allow Putin to hold power until 2036. The telephonic conversation on Thursday came against the backdrop of the Indian government approving a move to acquire 33 new combat jets from Russia, including 12 Su-30MKIs and 21 MiG-29s.

The PM congratulated Putin on the success of celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War-II and the successful completion of the vote on constitutional amendments.

Modi pointed to an Indian tri-services contingent’s participation in the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on June 24 as a symbol of the abiding friendship between the people of India and Russia.

Putin thanked Modi for the phone call and “reiterated his commitment to further strengthen the special and privileged strategic partnership between the two countries in all spheres”, according to Indian readout of the conversation.

The leaders took note of effective measures put in place by the two sides to address the consequences of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic and agreed on the importance of closer bilateral ties for jointly addressing the challenges of the post-Covid-19 world.

They agreed to maintain the momentum of bilateral contacts and consultations, leading up to the annual bilateral summit to be held in India this year, and Modi conveyed his keenness to welcome Putin for the meeting.

Russia has played a key behind-the-scenes role in efforts to reduce tensions between India and China following the standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Its leadership has said the reduction of tensions is necessary for regional security and stability.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh, who also participated in the Victory Day parade in Moscow last week, said after meetings with top Russian leaders that he had been assured that all ongoing contracts for military supplies would proceed as scheduled and be completed expeditiously, despite the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

People familiar with developments said this includes the $5.4-billion contract for five S-400 missile defence systems, which are expected to be delivered from the middle of next year. Russia accounts for more than 60% of the military hardware used by the Indian armed forces.

On Thursday, the defence ministry approved a proposal to acquire 33 new combat jets, including 12 Su-30MKIs and 21 MiG-29s, and the upgrade of 59 MiG-29s at a total cost of Rs 18,148 crore.

“Addressing the long-felt need of the Indian Air Force to increase its fighter squadrons, the DAC [Defence Acquisition Council] also approved the proposal for procurement of 21 MiG-29 along with an upgrade of existing 59 MiG-29 aircraft and procurement of 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

The constitutional changes in Russia will allow Putin to run two more times as president. Putin has been in power for more than two decades, longer than any other Kremlin leader since Josef Stalin.

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