Modi’s visit to Russia purely bilateral: Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra – The Hindu

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The timing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia is “purely bilateral”, said Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, dismissing suggestions that his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 9 would appear in contrast to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit that will begin in the U.S. on the same day. The summit is expected to focus on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Briefing the media about the upcoming visit on July 8 and 9, he said that when the two meet for the 22nd annual summit they will discuss the conflict in Ukraine, particularly the issue of Indians recruited by the Russian military, along with other global and regional issues. They are expected to focus, however, on the many issues pending between them since the last annual summit in 2021, with trade, connectivity, space, oil and LNG, defence supplies, payment issues given western sanctions as well as cooperation on nuclear power reactors in India high on the agenda. 

Also read | No topic off-limits for Modi’s upcoming talks with Putin: Kremlin

U.S. President Joseph Biden is hosting the transatlantic group of NATO for a special 75th anniversary summit which will also have leaders of Asia-Pacific leaders and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as guests from July 8-10. 

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“With regard to the scheduling of Prime Minister [Modi’s] visit to Russia… we look at our relationship with Russia purely through a bilateral framework of reference. The annual summit has not been held since 2021 and it has been scheduled now. I would not read any other significance into the meeting except that we attach great importance to it,” Mr. Kwatra said, downplaying any comparison to the parallel summit in the U.S. He said India’s position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict is consistently in favour of dialogue and diplomacy and a settlement that includes the two parties.

When asked if India will discuss G-7 sanctions on Russia during the talks, he said India is “careful in adhering to UN sanctions”, but its discussions on the G-7 sanctions are only to “protect India’s economic and national needs, whether it relates to diamonds or other sectors of our economy”.

Mr. Kwatra said that India has been pursuing the cases of an “estimated 30-45” Indian nationals who are working with the Russian Army after being recruited through “illegal and unethical means”, saying that Mr. Modi will likely request an “early discharge of Indian nationals who have been misled into the service of the Russian Army” in his talks.

Mr. Modi and Mr. Putin are expected to meet each other for a number of events during the two-day visit. Mr. Modi will land in Moscow on Monday afternoon, and Mr. Putin will host him for a dinner that evening. The next morning, after the ceremonial welcome, the leaders are expected to visit the tomb of the unknown soldier inside the Kremlin to pay their respects. Mr. Modi will visit an exhibition to view new developments by Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom that has built the reactors at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. While India has signed a number of civil nuclear agreements with many countries, Russia is the only foreign country operating nuclear power plants in India thus far with Kudankulam units 1 and 2 operational and units 3-6 under construction. Following the exhibition, Mr. Modi will hold bilateral talks with Mr. Putin followed by delegation-level talks. 

Trying to resolve the trade deficit between the two countries would also be high on the leaders’ agenda, Mr. Kwatra said, pointing out that India’s imports from Russia were about $60 billion dollars owing to a surge in oil purchases since the Ukraine war, while India’s exports to Russia stand at about $4 billion. 

“In every sector, whether it is in agriculture, manufacturing, pharmaceutical or services, we are trying to maximise Indian exports to Russia so that the trade imbalance can be addressed,” he added, but said that the payment mechanisms between the two countries that had been stuck due to sanctions were “working fine” at present.

Mr. Modi will leave on Tuesday evening for the second leg of his visit, to Vienna, becoming the first Indian PM to visit Austria in more than 40 years. While there, he will discuss trade and broadening the scope of the India-Austria partnership.

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