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When Modi Met Putin

When Modi Met Putin

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Vladimir Putin on Thursday and Friday in the Russian president’s hometown of St. Petersburg. Modi is the honored guest at this year’s St. Petersburg Economic Forum, and, if photos are any indication, the Indian prime minister was loving it.

Earlier in the week, Modi met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and it seemed as though India might be turning to Berlin in the absence of a strong partner in Washington. But now, as the world order rearranges itself, Modi’s literally holding hands with Putin.

Courting Berlin and Moscow are not mutually exclusive for Modi, who is on a whirlwind world tour and promoting his “Make in India” program, his initiative to encourage manufacturing in India. In a joint statement, the Modi and Putin marked 70 years of cooperation between their two countries, a “special and privileged strategic partnership.” The two leaders also announced that they intend to build an “energy bridge,” with particular focus on partnering in the nuclear sector and “developing advanced nuclear manufacturing capabilities in India” as part of Modi’s manufacturing initiative.

Does Modi’s enthusiasm for cooperation in Russia mean he’s turning away from Germany? Not exactly. Modi is flexing his muscles on the world stage in Berlin and St. Petersburg precisely because he’s following a central Indian foreign policy tenet — strategic autonomy.

So what did Putin make of this meeting?

As Putin, unlike Modi, does not have a Twitter account, the world may never know whether the Russian president was as delighted as his Indian counterpart was (or at least tweeted he was) with the visit. The world does know, however, what Putin said during the forum’s plenary session, which also featured Modi, and was moderated by Megyn Kelly, now of NBC News.

The Russian president implied that NATO is irrelevant now that the Cold War is over (in 2001, he said Russia should be allowed to join the alliance). He also said that even Kelly’s “underage daughter” could have been the hacker responsible for interfering in the U.S. elections. Finally, he said that U.S. officials blaming Russia for electoral meddling was “disinformation” akin to “anti-Semitism and blaming the Jews.”

Photo credit: STANISLAV KRASILNIKOV/AFP/Getty Images