In its efforts to address a rising China, Washington has set up the QUAD security dialogue with India, Japan, and Australia, raising concerns in both Beijing and Moscow.
India was close to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, a relationship that has endured, with New Delhi calling it a "special and privileged strategic partnership".
"The friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time," PM Modi told Putin at a virtual summit in September. "You have always been a great friend of India."
It is only the Russian leader's second trip abroad since the coronavirus pandemic began -- he skipped both the G20 and COP26 summits this year -- after a June summit with US President Joe Biden in Geneva.
"It's hugely symbolic," said Nandan Unnikrishnan from New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think tank.
"It's indicative how they do not want the relationship to stagnate or slow down for want of something from the Russian side."
But Putin has to contend with complex regional dynamics, with tensions mounting between India and Russia's traditional ally China following deadly clashes in a disputed Himalayan region.
"Russia's influence in the region is very limited," said Tatiana Belousova of OP Jindal Global University in Haryana, "mostly because of its close ties with China and unwillingness to act in dissonance with the Chinese regional interests."