Emmanuel Macron has thrown a praise-wrapped curveball at the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.
Speaking at the 77th UN General Assembly, the French president yesterday (Sept. 20) amplified Modi’s recent view on wars. Modi had, last week, told Vladimir Putin, amidst Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that “the time is not for war.”
“Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, was right when he said the time is not for war,” Macron said. “It is not for revenge against the west or for opposing the west against the east. It is the collective time for our sovereign equal states to cope together with challenges we face.”
Macron was speaking in the context of the need to channel collective energies into global challenges. But by quoting Modi in a global forum, he may have refocused attention on India’s own close and expanding ties with Russia, a long-standing ally.
India is one of the few major countries to not have openly criticized Russia’s Ukraine invasion until Modi’s recent rebuke to Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting last week. In India, though, Modi’s words were largely perceived as mere cautioning.
Modi will want to stay on Putin’s good side. An oil-thirsty India has bought up huge quantities of Russian crude since the war began, offered at deep discounts. Russia’s share of oil imports into India expanded from as little as 1% before the war to 18% by June.
Now, though, Macron’s praise of Modi could place a road bump, even if only a small one, in front of Modi’s delicately balanced apple-cart.