Trade, energy, connectivity on table during Jaishankar’s Russia visit next week | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Trade, energy, connectivity on table during Jaishankar’s Russia visit next week

Dec 18, 2023 07:32 PM IST

External affairs minister S Jaishankar’s visit to Moscow assumes greater significance as India and Russia will not hold their annual leaders’ summit this year

NEW DELHI: External affairs minister S Jaishankar is set to visit Russia next week for a meeting with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov to review the bilateral relationship and to give a boost to ties in areas such as trade, energy and defence, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with external affairs minister S. Jaishankar during a ceremonial reception for a visiting dignitary at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. (Hindustan Times File/Sanjeev Verma)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with external affairs minister S. Jaishankar during a ceremonial reception for a visiting dignitary at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. (Hindustan Times File/Sanjeev Verma)

Jaishankar’s visit assumes greater significance as India and Russia will not hold their annual leaders’ summit this year. The last summit was held in New Delhi in December 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s travels have been curtailed since the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The external affairs minister, who is expected to begin his visit on December 25, will meet Lavrov in Moscow to do a stock-taking of the overall bilateral relationship, the people said on the condition of anonymity. Jaishankar is also expected to travel to St Petersburg for official engagements during the visit that will last about four days, they said.

Among the issues that are expected to figure in the meetings in Moscow are trade, connectivity, expansion of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (Brics) grouping, cooperation on multilateral platforms such as the United Nations and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, defence cooperation, and the war in Ukraine, the people said.

The visit will be an opportunity for the Russian side to brief Jaishankar on the current status of operations in Ukraine, where a Ukrainian counter-offensive has made little headway even as the focus of the country’s Western allies has shifted to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The Indian side has refrained from publicly criticising the Russian invasion while pushing for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way forward. India has also continued its purchases of Russian crude despite a price cap enforced by the G7 and European Union.

Connectivity initiatives such as the proposed Chennai-Vladivostok shipping route and the International North-South Transport Corridor will be in focus as part of efforts to boost bilateral trade and make it more balanced, the people said. The two sides have identified coal, oil, fertilisers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) as some of the commodities that can be shipped by the Chennai-Vladivostok route. India’s large purchases of Russian energy have skewed the trade balance in Moscow’s favour and leaders of both countries have highlighted the need to ensure more balanced trade, including greater Indian investments in Russia.

The two sides are also expected to take a fresh look at trade in national currencies to get around both the problem of large rupee reserves in vostro accounts operated by Russian exporters and Western sanctions imposed on Russia.

With Russia set to become chair of Brics, the expansion of the grouping is expected to figure in the discussions in Moscow. Pakistan is among the countries that have applied to join Brics in 2024, while India continues to harbour concerns that the expansion should not make the grouping China-centric.

While Russia’s work on the Kudankulam nuclear power has largely not been affected by the Ukraine war, supplies of some key defence equipment by Moscow, especially the S-400 air defence systems, have run into delays since last year. The people said this issue is also expected to figure in the upcoming meetings with the Russian side.

Ahead of Jaishankar’s visit, Russia’s deputy foreign minister Andrey Rudenko met foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra in New Delhi last month for consultations. The two sides discussed issues of multifaceted cooperation between Russia and India, and international and regional matters, the Russian embassy said at the time.

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