On July 8, Narendra Modi met President Vladimir Putin as part of a two-day visit to Russia. On the same day, a Russian attack on a Ukrainian children’s hospital and other targets killed 29. The countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization bloc met in Washington and pledged long-term support to Ukraine.

Modi’s visit and the photographs of him embracing Putin sparked satirical comments from some social media users and cartoonists. Others made posts about the diplomatic and geopolitical consequences of India and Russia’s ties.

It was Modi’s first bilateral visit since becoming prime minister for the third time with a reduced majority for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Russia invaded Ukraine in March 2022 and the two countries have been at war since.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned Modi hugging Putin. “...it is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day,” said Zelenskyy, referring to the missile strikes on Ukraine.

Modi, in his televised comments, condemned the attack and made some emotional remarks to Putin.

“Whether it is war, conflict or a terrorist attack, any person who believes in humanity is pained when there is loss of lives,” said Modi. “But even in that, when innocent children are killed, the heart bleeds and that pain is very terrifying.”

One cartoonist referred to Modi’s appeal to Putin to stop the war.

Another cartoon, commenting on Putin’s promise to release Indian recruits fighting for Russia in Ukraine, pointed out that when they retured hom they would be well trained to survive the series of infrastructural and developmental disasters in India.

In the last few weeks, 12 bridges have collapsed in Bihar, the roofs of three airports collapsed and 120 people died in crowd disasters.

A meme posted by a BJP supporter mocked NATO’s alarm at Modi and Putin’s close ties.

A cartoon accompanying an opinion in The Times of India referenced the military, petroleum and trade deals struck between Russia and India during Modi’s visit.

China, which shares a close relationship with Russia, appeared to be pleased with the developments. Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party newspaper, published an opinion piece which noted that Modi’s visit was a testimony to the US’s power “shrinking rapidly”.

An accompanying cartoon referenced the perceived irrelevance of the United States in a “multipolar world”, where countries are not united behind two power blocs.

For BJP supporters, strengthened India-Russia ties were a good sign in view of China’s hostility along its border with India, especially since 2020. Russia and China are strong allies.