Modi Travels to Berlin Amid India’s Neutral Position on Ukraine

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From FOREIGN POLICY MORNING BRIEF: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks today on a three-country tour of Europe, beginning with Germany, as the West continues its charm offensive amid India’s neutral position on Ukraine. Modi’s travels take him to Denmark on Tuesday, where he is due to participate in the India-Nordic Summit where he will meet the leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. He heads to France on Wednesday, where he’ll meet with the newly re-elected French President Emmanuel Macron and mark 75 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Modi hasn’t lacked for international attention lately.
There has been a steady flow of foreign dignitaries in India over the past few months, with both EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting Modi over the past two weeks. Those trips amount to a loosely-coordinated persuasion campaign, as India’s neutral position on Russia’s war in Ukraine has awakened the West to the reality that not all powers see the world the same way Washington and Brussels do.

The war has also put India in an enviable position: Making the West desperate to supply the country with weapons, getting discounted oil and other commodities from Russia, and even receiving diplomatic overtures from China. Scholz is expected to do his part today by making India an invitee to the next G-7 summit, which will take place in the Bavarian Alps in June. He will also have an eye on unwinding India’s tight defense relationship with Russia by pushing European defense firms to fill the gap, Bloomberg reports.

Illustration by Irshad Salim

The meeting could mean good news for Indian workers too, with discussions expected to include relaxing immigration rules to address labor shortages in the tech sector. And while India has been criticized for increasing its oil imports from Russia, it won’t be lost on Modi that the leader of the second largest importer of Russian oil in the world will be sitting across from him in Berlin. That may change soon, after one of Scholz’s key advisors suggested a Russian oil embargo could be put in place in a “few months,” putting the country on the side of Poland and the Baltic states in the EU-wide debate.

Modi’s European tour kicks off a busy month of travel for the Indian leader. On May 24, Modi is expected at the next meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, in Tokyo. The meeting will be the second time in two months that U.S. President Joe Biden and Modi will interact following a virtual summit between the two leaders in April.