Russian President Vladimir Putin called Prime Minister Narendra Modi late Thursday amid reports that Russia had made an offer to mediate between India and Pakistan to defuse rising tensions between the two neighbours.
A statement from the Indian foreign ministry and the Prime Minister’s office did not make any reference to any offer of mediation during Putin’s call to Modi.
It said that Putin expressed his deep condolences on the 14 February Pulwama terrorist attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel. The attack, claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist group has sparked tensions between India and Pakistan with the Indian Air Force bombing a terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on 26 February.
On 27 February, Pakistan retaliated by launching an intrusion into the Indian air space by 24 fighter jets, with the Indian Air Force scrambling its fighters. In the ensuing aerial combat, India and Pakistan downed an aircraft each of the other side and Pakistan captured an Indian pilot who has been in Pakistani custody for two days and is expected to be returned to India on Friday.
The Indian statement said Putin also “conveyed solidarity of the people of the Russian Federation with the people of India in the fight against terrorism.”
“The Prime Minister thanked President Putin for Russia’s steadfast support for India’s efforts to protect its interests against cross-border terror attacks, and renewed India’s commitment to strengthening bilateral cooperation in countering terrorism as a pillar of privileged and special strategic partnership. Both leaders agreed that the concerned should stop all support to terrorism,” it said.
“Both the leaders also agreed that the growing cooperation between the two countries will take their Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership from strength to strength,” the statement said.
President Putin reiterated an invitation to Modi to attend the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok later this year, it said adding that Modi welcomed the invitation and underscored the significance of growing economic cooperation, including in the Russian Far East, between the two countries.
Russia’s reported mediation offer came after Pakistan said it was considering returning a captured Indian pilot and as US President Donald Trump said American mediation was helping to defuse the crisis. A Reuter’s report said Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had said that if India and Pakistan want mediation then “of course.”
India has always refused offers of mediation to settle disputes with Pakistan especially over Kashmir.