Russia sending 22 tonnes of equipment to India as Covid-19 aid, both sides to set up 2+2 dialogue

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday extended support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for countering the Covid-19 situation in India even as the two sides decided to establish a new 2+2 dialogue of foreign and defence ministers.

Modi spoke to Putin on telephone against the backdrop of reports that the first Russian consignment of support materials for India’s Covid-19 response was expected to reach the country on Thursday. Russian military aircraft will deliver more than 22 tonnes of equipment, including 20 oxygen production units, 75 ventilators, 150 medical monitors and 200,000 packs of medicine.

The leaders discussed the evolving pandemic situation, and Putin “expressed solidarity with the people and government of India and conveyed that Russia would extend all possible support in this regard”, according to a statement from the external affairs ministry.

Modi thanked Putin and said the “prompt Russian support to India was a symbol of our enduring partnership”.

The leaders decided to establish a new 2+2 dialogue mechanism comprising the foreign and defence ministers of both countries. Russia will be only the fourth country with which India has such a mechanism, the others being the US, Japan and Australia.

The contact at the highest levels of the leadership in India and Russia came after bilateral ties went through a rough patch recently, following Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to New Delhi. Lavrov’s decision to club the trip to India with a visit to Pakistan, and his comments about Moscow being ready to supply special military equipment to Islamabad, did not go down well in New Delhi.

During their conversation, Modi and Putin also discussed cooperation between the two sides to fight the global pandemic. Putin appreciated India’s decision to grant emergency use approval for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, and the leaders “noted that the Russian vaccine will be manufactured in India for use in India, Russia and third countries”, the statement said.

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity the first consignment of Russian-made Sputnik V doses is expected to reach India by the end of the month. The developers of Sputnik V have tied up with several Indian pharmaceutical firms to manufacture 850 million doses a year.

Putin and Modi discussed ways to further deepen bilateral cooperation in different sectors in line with the bilateral special and privileged partnership. Modi conveyed his appreciation for Russia’s support for India’s Gaganyaan programme or first manned space flight, and the completion of the Russian phase of training for the four astronauts.

The first manned space flight, originally planned for 2022, has now been pushed to 2023 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The two leaders also noted the scope for increasing cooperation in renewable energy, including the hydrogen economy. They also recalled important decisions made during their last summit in Vladivostok in September 2019.

Modi said he looked forward to Putin’s visit to India later this year for the bilateral summit, which would be an occasion to “continue their personal and trusted conversation”, the statement said. Putin assured Modi of Russia’s full support for the success of India’s presidency of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping during 2021.

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