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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent two-day visit to Russia, marking the resumption of the India-Russia annual summit after a two-year hiatus, has generated considerable debate within China’s strategic circles. This trip comes against the backdrop of a deepening alignment between China and Russia and concerns about Moscow falling into Beijing’s orbit, likely influencing Modi’s decision to choose Russia for his first bilateral visit.

China is closely monitoring Modi’s visit to Russia, driven by its significant geopolitical interests. Beijing heavily relies on its partnership with Moscow to counterbalance the US-led Western coalition. In Chinese strategic thinking, India is often viewed as considering China its primary adversary, which shapes New Delhi’s diplomatic approach toward both Russia and the West. India’s strategy, perceived by Chinese observers as a diplomatic tightrope walk, aims to position the country as a neutral mediator in the Russia-Ukraine conflict while maintaining strong ties with major global powers. This nuanced approach suggests that India seeks to balance its relations without entirely sidelining Russia.

Chinese commentators are also scrutinizing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policy toward India, especially since the beginning of his new term, which some perceive as indifferent. Putin’s prioritization of visits to China, North Korea, and Vietnam over India has sparked speculation about a potential shift in Russia’s stance towards India. However, according to Chinese commentary, this apparent neglect might be a strategic maneuver to pressure Modi into choosing between Russia and the US rather than an indication of abandonment.

On Chinese social media platforms like Weibo, there is a noticeable resentment towards Western leaders for not criticizing Modi’s visit to Russia. Many users perceive this as double standards, questioning why India can maintain ties with both Europe and Russia without much scrutiny, while China faces severe criticism for similar actions. Calls for the US and Europe to impose sanctions on Indian companies doing business with Russia have emerged, alongside queries about whether Modi will face consequences for “playing both sides.” In contrast, some posts praise Modi as a “strategic master” for managing to keep both Washington and Moscow satisfied, highlighting India’s ability to safeguard its national interests while nurturing friendly relations with major global powers.

There is a notable divergence between the discourse in Mandarin and English. In the English-language media and on platforms like X, there is an optimistic view of India-Russia relations. Scholars such as Long Xingchun from Sichuan International Studies University and commentators like Hu Xijin emphasize that China does not perceive closer India-Russia relations as a direct threat. They attempt to portray India as a partner to both Russia and China, balancing against perceived “Western aggression.”