India's foreign ministry has rejected a report - published by India's The Print news outlet – that claims Russia and India's annual summit to develop bilateral relations was postponed this year due to soured relations, calling it "false and misleading."
"The India-Russia Annual Summit did not take place in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic. This was a mutually agreed decision between the two Governments,” Anurag Shrivastava, spokesperson of the Indian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday evening.
Shrivastava said that “spreading false stories on important relationships is particularly irresponsible.”
The statement comes shortly after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted "Russia is a very important friend of India. Damaging our traditional relationships is short-sighted and dangerous for our future" in response to the report.
Russia is a very important friend of India.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 23, 2020
Damaging our traditional relationships is short-sighted and dangerous for our future. pic.twitter.com/U5VyFWeS6L
The Print linked the postponement of the summit for the first time since 2000 to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's comments on the Quad; he expressed reservations about New Delhi joining the coalition, saying “India is currently an object of the Western countries’ persistent, aggressive, and devious policy as they are trying to engage it in anti-China games by promoting Indo-Pacific strategies, the so-called Quad.”
The navies of the four Quad countries – India, Japan, the US, and Australia – earlier this year held their first naval drills since 2008. However, it is worth mentioning that the bilateral summit was tentatively planned by the two sides before the naval drill but later it got postponed owing to rising number of COVID-19 cases in India.
Russian Ambassador to India Nikolay R.Kudashev also touched on the article “India-Russia annual summit postponed for 1st time in two decades amid Moscow’s unease with Quad” by The Print.
“I find it to be far from reality. Special and privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India is progressing well despite the COVID19. Staying in a close touch with our Indian friends to work out new dates for the summit, postponed due to epidemiological reasons,” Kudashev said while adding that the two countries are confident that the summit will be held in the near future.
Sources from India's foreign ministry also mentioned that it's not only the annual summit with Russia that's been postponed, but several other annual summits have also been delayed this year due to the pandemic.