In broad terms, India and Russia have a similar approach to the situation in Syria and New Delhi has no reason to doubt that Moscow’s air strikes are not actually targeting Islamic State (IS) in that country as some critics have pointed out, foreign secretary S Jaishankar said.
On the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia, Jaishankar said both India and Russia have the same stand on resolving the Syrian issue “through political and diplomatic means and through intra-Syrian dialogue”.
Syria has been in a state of civil war since 2011, with the country’s government fighting a number of opposition factions and radical Islamist groups, including Islamic State and al-Nusra Front.
When asked about Russian intervention in Syria, the foreign secretary said Russian forces were present with the consent of the Syrian government, adding that Russia had long held a position on fighting extremists and India had no reason to doubt that.
“We expect to sign a number of agreements covering a broad range of topics. Final touches are being given to some of them,” the foreign secretary said, adding that expanding economic ties would be a priority as the two countries were aiming to enhance annual bilateral trade to $30 billion in the near future.
The current bilateral trade is under $10 billion.
Jaishankar said India was looking at deeper engagement in Russia’s oil and coal sector, besides stepping up cooperation in some other areas such as diamond trade and agro-business.
Energy-starved India, the third-largest oil importer after US and China, has been pushing for greater involvement in major gas and oil exploration projects in Russia which is one of the top oil producers globally and has huge reserves of natural gas.
India is also likely to push for a Free Trade Agreement with the Eurasian Economic Zone.