Russia’s courtship of China follows Western sanctions and an oil price slump that hit its USD 1.13 trillion economy hard. Last year, Russia’s GDP shrank 3.7 percent before stabilizing as energy markets rebounded. It remains weak, however, with the International Monetary Fund predicting a further contraction of 0.8 percent this year and modest growth in 2017.
Putin is due to meet with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the BRICS summit on Saturday, where they are expected to discuss Syria and Afghanistan. The two also aim to expand nuclear ties, with Russia building several reactors in India. After decades of close Cold War-era relations between New Delhi and Moscow, Russia has been unnerved by Modi’s effort to build closer economic and defense ties with Washington.
Bilateral trade fell more than 14 percent from USD 10 billion in 2014, a decline Russia has blamed on the global oil market turmoil.
India also expressed annoyance with Russia’s recent joint military exercises with Pakistan, which India says “sponsors and practices terrorism as a matter of state policy,” Press Trust of India news agency quoted Indian Ambassador Pankaj Saran as saying in Moscow.