Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tour began with a visit to Berlin on Monday and meeting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Following the meeting with Scholz, Modi will visit Denmark to meet with the leaders of the Nordic countries in the two-day India-Nordic summit. Afterwards, he will visit French President Emmanuel Macron.
Ahead of his trip, Modi said that his “visit to Europe comes at a time when the region faces many challenges and choices.” He said he wanted to “strengthen the spirit of cooperation” with European partners who are “important companions in India’s quest for peace and prosperity.”
What will be discussed at the meeting?
India’s position toward Russia is expected to be discussed in the talks. New Delhi abstained in a UN vote condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, while calling for an end to hostilities.
The Asian nation imports much of its military hardware from Russia and has long maintained close relations with both the West and Moscow.
India has significantly increased imports of Russian oil from March onwards. The Times of India reported that some 50 Indian exporters will head to Moscow later in May after enquiries from Russian firms. “The attack on Ukraine by Russia is on the top of the agenda for all of Europe and beyond,” Scholz was cited as saying by the Indian Express.
“The brutality of the Russian aggression against civilians in Ukraine is shocking and appalling. Massacres against the civilian population are war crimes and those responsible must be held accountable,” Scholz said, adding that he was sure that there was agreement between Berlin and New Delhi on this issue.
The Indian Express cited Scholz as saying that he and Modi would also discuss climate change, efforts for sustainable development and strengthening ties between India and the EU.
Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said that European countries “not only understand but also have deep appreciation” of India’s position on the war in Ukraine.
Kwatra said that the principal focus of discussions is to strengthen bilateral partnership between India and Europe in trade, energy and sustainable development.
India long maintained close relations with the Soviet Union and then Russia. At the same time, it is part of the “Quad” Indo-Pacific security forum alongside the United States, Australia and Japan. The other three members have condemned Russia’s invasion and pressured India to take a more robust stance.
In mid-April, US President Joe Biden urged Modi not to accelerate its purchase of Russian oil, saying that relying on Russian energy would not benefit India’s position in the world.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said in response that India’s energy imports from Russia were far less than those of Europe.
“I suspect, looking at the figures, probably our total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon,” Jaishankar said.
Meanwhile, Germany has also been under a degree of pressure from several of its European and NATO allies to reduce its energy imports from Russia. Before Russia invaded Ukraine, the establishment of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that was to bring gas directly through Germany without using Ukraine and other countries as intermediaries was opposed by the United States.
On Monday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that Berlin was ready to support a gradual, EU-wide embargo on Russian oil imports. Kyiv has demanded its allies impose a full embargo on Russian oil and gas.