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Top diplomats discuss bilateral ties ahead of Modi’s visit to Moscow

The Russian and Indian foreign ministers held talks on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Astana

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar held talks on bilateral issues on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Astana, Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

The top diplomats noted the progress in many areas since their last meeting in December, Jaishankar wrote on X (formerly Twitter). New Delhi and Moscow signed several bilateral agreements during the Indian diplomat’s visit last year, when he held meetings with both Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The foreign ministers also discussed “global strategic landscape and exchanged assessments and views” in Astana, according to Jaishankar.

India, which has abstained from UN resolutions condemning Russia over the Ukraine conflict, has repeatedly advocated dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the situation. Last month, an Indian delegation refused to endorse the final document issued after a two-day summit on peace in Ukraine because Russia had not been invited. New Delhi issued a statement, saying a lasting and peaceful resolution required “sincere and practical engagement between the two parties to the conflict.”

Wednesday’s meeting comes days before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Moscow for a bilateral summit with Putin. On Tuesday, a Kremlin spokesman described the upcoming visit as “very important.” The two leaders will discuss regional and global security, bilateral ties, and trade.

Over the past two years, India has ramped up imports of Russian commodities, particularly oil and coal, and strategic goods including defense hardware, despite the pressure of Western sanctions on Moscow.

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Jaishankar has repeatedly emphasized the importance of maintaining a robust relationship with Russia, explaining that India’s foreign policy is guided by “national interest.”

On Wednesday, he said he had raised New Delhi’s “strong concern” over the presence of Indian nationals in the war zone of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Last month, New Delhi announced that two Indian nationals had been killed and urged its citizens to “exercise caution” when being offered well-paid jobs in Russia.

Earlier this year, India’s top investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), uncovered a human-trafficking ring that brought young Indians to Russia on the promise of lucrative employment opportunities. The CBI announced in March that it had conducted raids in a number of locations across India and initiated legal proceedings against several visa consultancy firms and agents implicated in the scheme.

The Indian Foreign Ministry said it had also raised the matter with Moscow, and sought the “early release and return” of all Indian nationals who are believed to be fighting for Russia. Moscow, meanwhile, stated that its missions in India and Sri Lanka, which also raised similar concerns over its citizens participating in the conflict, were in constant contact with officials in New Delhi and Colombo over the matter.

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July 03, 2024 at 07:27PM

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