Modi receives Russia’s highest civilian award for promoting bilateral ties

Indian prime minister collected award from Vladmir Putin five years after it was conferred on him

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Wednesday 10 July 2024 16:42
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Narendra Modi embraces Vladimir Putin during visit to Russia

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Narendra Modi received Russia’s highest civilian award for “exceptional service” in promoting bilateral ties on Tuesday, even as Western countries expressed displeasure about the Indian prime minister’s visit to a longtime ally.

Vladimir Putin presented the Order of St Andrew the Apostle the First-Called to Mr Modi after their summit meeting at the Kremlin. The formal ceremony was held five years after Mr Modi was conferred the award in 2019 for “outstanding achievements in promoting partnership with Russia”.

The award was established in 1698 by Tsar Peter the Great in honour of the patron saint of Russia.

"Honoured to receive The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle. I thank the Russian Government for conferring the award,” Mr Modi said in a post on X, dedicating the award to his fellow Indians.

Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin during an informal meeting in Moscow
Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin during an informal meeting in Moscow (AP)

Mr Modi concluded his first trip to Russia in five years on Tuesday. The visit had been stalled since the Russian military invaded Ukraine in early 2022.

The Indian leader has avoided condemning Russia while emphasising a peaceful settlement of the ongoing war.

However, the bilateral relationship has become complicated as Russia has moved closer to China, India’s chief rival.

Mr Modi arrived in Moscow on Monday shortly after Russian missiles struck across Ukraine, killing at least 42 people and damaging a children’s hospital in the capital Kyiv.

He alluded to the bloodshed while speaking about his meeting with Mr Putin on Tuesday.

“Be it war, a struggle or a terrorist attack, every person who believes in humanity, when there is loss of life, he is pained,” Mr Modi said. “When innocent children are killed, when we see innocent children dying, then the heart pains. And that pain is very horrible.”

The prime minister said he and the Russian president shared “our opinions on Ukraine with an open heart and in detail”.

“We respectfully listened to each other.”

Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi ride in a golf cart before their meeting in Moscow
Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi ride in a golf cart before their meeting in Moscow (EPA)

Mr Modi said that “a solution is not possible on the battlefield. Between bombs, guns and bullets, a solution and peace talks cannot be successful. And we have to adopt the path of peace only through talks.”

In televised comments, Mr Putin said “all issues” were discussed with the Indian prime minister and that “our relationship is one of a particularly privileged strategic partnership”.

Mr Modi was criticised back home and by Western nations for greeting Mr Putin with his signature bear hug.

“It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said, without mentioning Mr Modi by name.

A spokesperson for the US State Department said that Washington “made quite clear directly with India our concerns about their relationship with Russia”.

“India is a strategic partner with whom we engage in a full and frank dialogue. And that includes our concerns about their relationship with Russia,” Mathew Miller said.

Mr Modi last travelled to Russia in 2019, when he attended a forum in the eastern port city of Vladivostok and met with Mr Putin.

They also saw each other in September 2022 at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation bloc in Uzbekistan.

From Russia, Mr Modi went to Austria as the first Indian prime minister to visit the central European country in 40 years.

The two countries are looking to deepen their “relationship and closer cooperation on various geopolitical challenges”.

“The India-Austria friendship is strong and it will get even stronger in the times to come,” Mr Modi said.

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