In a meeting between Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, the two nations agreed to strengthen their defence partnership despite Ukraine war challenges, according to a statement by the Indian government. The talks took place on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) defence ministers’ gathering in New Delhi.
Acknowledging the long-standing and time-tested relationship between India and Russia, the ministers expressed satisfaction over the continued trust and mutual respect between the two countries, particularly in defence, and reiterated their commitment to strengthening the partnership.
India, the world’s largest arms importer, depends on Russia for almost half its military supplies, including fighter jets, tanks, nuclear submarines and an aircraft carrier. However, the Ukraine war has led to delays in the delivery of Russian air defence systems and critical spares required for India to maintain its tank and fighter jet fleets.
The Indian government has refrained from publicly blaming Russia for the Ukraine war, with concerns in New Delhi over the potential impact on its own military supplies. Despite criticism from Western leaders, India has increased trade with Russia, with the import of Russian oil reaching a record high.
Russia, which is expecting a counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces in the coming weeks, has hosted the defence ministers of Iran, Syria, and Turkey in recent days. Shoigu also held talks with China’s defence minister on April 18, stating at the SCO meeting that the real aim of the West in Ukraine is to strategically defeat Russia, pose a threat to China, and maintain its monopoly position, according to Russian state-owned news agency RIA.
The meeting between the Indian and Russian defence ministers is seen as a significant development in the context of growing geopolitical tensions and shifting alliances in the region.