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Ukraine and India, a historical ally of Russia, hold talks to strengthen ties

NEW DELHI (AP) — India's foreign minister held talks Friday with his Ukrainian counterpart, who was visiting to strengthen bilateral ties and cooperation with New Delhi, which considers Russia a historic ally from the Cold War-era.

Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said in a post on the social media platform X that he and Dmytro Kuleba discussed “the ongoing conflict and its wider ramifications," and said the two would work together to boost relations between their countries.

“India and Ukraine have been traditional friends, but I think there is much more that we can do and should do, not only in the interests of our nations, but also in the interest of global development and security architecture,” Kuleba said Friday. “We will be looking forward to restoring what had existed before the large scale invasion of Russia in Ukraine began.”

Kuleba told Indian media Thursday that he wanted to discuss Ukraine's peace formula while in New Delhi, and encourage India to play a bigger role in helping end Russia's war in Ukraine.

“India can play a very important role in bringing together more nations from the Global South,” Kuleba said in an interview with New Delhi Television. He said India could be particularly helpful due to its close relationship with Russia. “It means India can influence the way Russia behaves,” he said, but also remarked that New Delhi's relationship with Moscow is based on the past, while the one with Ukraine “has more of a future.”

Kuleba's visit comes a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladmir Putin, whom India has so far avoided criticizing over the war in Ukraine. Instead, New Delhi has stressed the need for diplomacy and dialogue on ending the war and has expressed its willingness to contribute to peace efforts.

“Your visit gives us an opportunity, obviously, to understand the situation in your own region, and I look forward to hearing your perspectives on that,” Jaishankar said Friday before the two foreign ministers began their talks.

On March 20, Modi said he had expressed to Zelenskyy India's support for an early end to the conflict, while the Ukrainian president said he encouraged India to participate in the Peace Summit that Switzerland has offered to organize. Modi also spoke to Putin on the same day to congratulate him on his reelection as president, and agreed to further boost ties between the two countries.

Under Modi, India has promoted itself as a rising global player that can mediate between the West and Russia on the war in Ukraine.

At the United Nations, New Delhi has refrained from voting against Moscow, and has ramped up its purchases of Russian oil at discounted prices following the February 2022 invasion. Russia is also India's biggest arms supplier.

New Delhi has been trying to reduce its dependance on Moscow for arms and technology because of disruptions in supplies due to the war, and has stepped up its engagements with Western powers like the United States and the European Union. India is also part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, along with the United States, Australia and Japan.