Will PM ensure safe return of Indians fighting for Russian Army in war zone: Jairam Ramesh

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi emplanes for Moscow, in New Delhi, Monday, July 8, 2024.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi emplanes for Moscow, in New Delhi, Monday, July 8, 2024.

New Delhi: As Prime Minister Narendra Modi headed to Russia on Monday, the Congress asked whether he would take up the issue of Indian nationals fighting for the Russian Army in the war zone and ensure their safe return to India as soon as possible.

The prime minister will hold summit talks with President Vladimir Putin amid the conflict in Ukraine during his visit. This his first trip to Russia since 2019 and the first since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Congress general secretary, in-charge communications, Jairam Ramesh posed a series of questions for the prime minister in a post on X.

"India inherited a rich relationship with first the USSR and later Russia due to the astute diplomacy and strategic initiatives of various Congress governments through the decades. More recently, in his ten years as Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh met Vladmir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev (the two Presidents of Russia who served during his tenure) 16 times in India or Russia. By comparison, this is only Mr. Modi's 11th meeting with President Putin after 10 years in office," Ramesh said.

"While his propagandists make grand claims of having stopped the war between Russia and Ukraine, have relations between the two countries cooled off somewhat under Mr. Modi's watch?" the Congress leader asked.

He added that between FY14 and FY23, India's exports to Russia stagnated, falling from USD 3.17 billion to USD 3.14 billion, while the import bill surged exponentially, rising from USD 6.34 billion to USD 46.21 billion.

Such a lopsided trade relationship is unsustainable in the long-term, and has deleterious consequences for our domestic industry, Ramesh said.

"Is a rectification of this trade imbalance on the agenda for the non-biological Prime Minister's talks with President Putin? What is his vision to improve the trade balance between the two countries?" Ramesh said.

According to the Indian Embassy in Moscow, at least 50 Indian nationals have joined the Russian Army, he added.

At least two individuals have already been confirmed as fatalities of the war, Ramesh said.

"Many others have been 'duped' into fighting a war where they have no stake, aside from a chance to escape the poverty and unemployment crisis that the non-biological Prime Minister has perpetuated domestically. Will the non-biological Prime Minister take up the cause of these youth? Will he ensure their safe return to India as soon as possible?" Ramesh said.

Modi and Putin are set explore ways to further expand bilateral relations in diverse areas, including trade, energy and defence, at the 22nd India-Russia annual summit on Tuesday.

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