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Ukraine on agenda as Indian PM Modi heads to Europe

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New Delhi (AFP) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi traveled to Europe on Monday with New Delhi’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine expected to be a key talking point in meetings with regional leaders.

India, which imports much of its military hardware from Russia, has long walked a diplomatic tightrope between the West and Moscow, calling only for an immediate end to hostilities.

“My visit to Europe comes at a time when the region faces many challenges and choices,” Modi said in a statement released ahead of his departure for Germany, Denmark and France.

The Prime Minister intends to “strengthen the spirit of cooperation” with European partners “who are important companions in India’s quest for peace and prosperity”, the statement added.

Modi was due to speak with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Monday before heading to Copenhagen to join the prime ministers of Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Norway at an Indo summit. -two-day Nordic from May 3rd.

He will then make a brief stopover in France to see President Emmanuel Macron to “share appreciations on various regional and global issues and provide an update on ongoing bilateral cooperation,” the Indian statement said.

German Scholz was quoted by the Indian Express daily on Monday as saying “Russia’s attack on Ukraine is high on the agenda” in talks with Modi.

“The brutality of the Russian attack is shocking and appalling. Those responsible must be held accountable. I am convinced that there is broad agreement between our countries on this,” the newspaper quoted Scholz as saying in an interview.

Scholz plans to invite Modi as a special guest to the Group of Seven (G7) leaders’ summit next month as part of an effort to forge a broader alliance against Russia, Bloomberg News reported on Sunday.

Citing unnamed sources, the report says Scholz was concerned about Modi’s refusal to condemn Russia and India’s increased fossil fuel imports from there, and was undecided on whether to invite until a few weeks ago.

India dramatically increased its imports of Russian oil from March but has bristled at the move, saying European consumption of Russian energy products remains much higher.

Increase in Indian oil imports

At a press conference on Sunday, Indian Foreign Minister Vinay Kwatra said European countries “not only understand but also deeply appreciate” India’s stance on the conflict.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz plans to invite Indian Prime Minister Modi as a special guest at the G7 leaders’ summit next month Swimming pool by Carsten Koall/AFP

The main objective of the visits and discussions is to strengthen the bilateral partnership in a range of areas, including trade, energy and sustainable development, Kwatra said.

As Russia reels from Western sanctions, some 50 Indian exporters of food, ceramics and chemicals will visit Moscow later this month after requests for information from Russian companies, it reported on Monday. the Times of India newspaper.

“Trade and financial sanctions imposed on Russia… have opened up many opportunities for Indian companies in various sectors,” the newspaper said, quoting Vivek Agarwal of the lobby group Trade Promotion Council of India, which is organizing the trip. .

“Indian companies are also excited to tap into the huge potential available for Indian products in Russia,” he told the newspaper.

The daily quoted unnamed government officials suggesting that shipments would not begin until the war in Ukraine was over.