Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to Russia in five years underscores the strategic importance India attaches to its relationship with Moscow. Indian leaders view that relationship as essential to a balanced foreign policy — especially at a time when India seems, at least to some, to be subtly tilting toward the West — and to provide strategic leverage against China.

Russia and India started holding annual summits in 2000. After Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2021 trip to New Delhi, it was Modi’s turn to visit Moscow the following year. But in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — which spurred the United States and its partners to impose unprecedented sanctions on Moscow — Modi kept deferring his visit. (He did meet Putin in 2022 on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan, where he told the Russian leader that it was no time for war.)

Today it is apparent that Russia has neither been isolated internationally nor hobbled economically, despite the West’s best efforts. So, after narrowly winning a third term last month, Modi announced that he would take his long-delayed trip to Moscow.