President Vladimir Putin hailed Russia’s economic and military ties with India as he hosted the country’s prime minister in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on May 21.
"[Bilateral relations] have very deep roots. We recently managed to give them an extra impetus," Putin said during a meeting with Narendra Modi, noting that bilateral trade between Russia and India rose 17 percent over the first few months of the year.
Calling Modi a “big friend” of Russia, Putin also said that Moscow and New Delhi have established “very close contacts and good cooperation between our military bodies."
"All of this indicates the very high strategic level of our partnership," he added.
The informal talks in Sochi come two weeks after Putin was sworn in to a new presidential term as ties between Moscow and the West have plummeted to post-Cold War lows over issues including Russia's aggression in Ukraine, its role in Syria’s seven-year conflict, its meddling in U.S. elections, and the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in Britain in March.
Defense talks were expected to be on the agenda of the meeting between the Russian and Indian leaders, including India's purchase of Russian S-400 missile-defense systems.
In the last two decades, Russia-India ties have been underpinned by huge arms sales by Moscow to its "strategic partner."
An agreement on the S-400 would show India's continued reliance on Russia's military equipment at a time when the United States is trying to increase its own weapon sales to the South Asian country.
The Russian and Indian leaders were also expected to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, where the Western-backed government has been struggling to fend off militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.
The Sochi meeting also comes amid an upturn in relations between Russia and Pakistan, former Cold War foes -- a detente that has been watched with suspicion by Pakistan's neighbor and archrival India.
Meanwhile, Washington has been trying to cultivate New Delhi as a strategic ally, amid deteriorating U.S.-Pakistan relations over Islamabad's alleged support for militant groups fighting Afghan and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials deny the accusation.