Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Russia on Monday, navigating a delicate balance between preserving a historic relationship with Moscow and fostering closer security ties with Western nations. This marks Modi's inaugural visit since Russia's incursion into Ukraine and his recent re-election as leader of the world's most populous country.

"I am eager to discuss all facets of our bilateral cooperation with President Vladimir Putin and exchange views on numerous regional and global matters," Modi expressed in a statement. "We aim to contribute positively to a peaceful and stable region." Despite Moscow's role as a significant provider of discounted oil and arms to India, its estrangement from the West and burgeoning alliance with Beijing have strained its traditional partnership with New Delhi.

In recent years, Western powers have courted India as a counterbalance to China's expanding influence in the Asia-Pacific, while urging it to distance itself from Russia. Modi's last visit to Russia was in 2019, and he hosted Putin in New Delhi in 2021, shortly before Russia's offensive in Ukraine.

India has refrained from explicitly condemning Russia and has abstained from voting on United Nations resolutions criticizing Moscow. However, Russia's conflict with Ukraine has had humanitarian repercussions for India, prompting New Delhi to request the return of its citizens who had enlisted in support roles with the Russian military.

Concerns have also arisen over Moscow's deepening ties with Beijing, with the US and EU accusing China of bolstering Russia's military industry. India, a member of the Quad with the US, Japan, and Australia, positions itself against China's assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific.

Despite Ukraine straining Russia's military supplies, India and Russia have maintained a close relationship since the Cold War, with Russia historically being India's largest arms supplier. However, India has increasingly sought alternative sources for weapons, including domestic production.

India has emerged as a major purchaser of Russian oil, providing a crucial export market for Moscow after being excluded from traditional European buyers. This has significantly transformed energy relations, saving India billions of dollars while supporting Russia's war efforts.

India's imports of Russian crude oil rose by 8% in May, reaching the highest levels since July 2023, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. However, this has also led to a trade deficit with Russia, which stood at over $57 billion in the past financial year.

Following his visit to Russia, Modi will travel to Vienna, marking the first visit by an Indian leader to the Austrian capital since Indira Gandhi in 1983.