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New Delhi, Moscow hold talks ahead of Putin’s India visit

New Delhi / Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Tuesday reviewed diplomatic ties ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s upcoming India visit, focusing on military and economic ties.

“Much of our discussions today (were) about the preparations for President Putin’s visit for the annual summit later this year,” Jaishankar said in a press conference, although the dates for the trip haven’t been announced yet.

The meeting between the two top diplomats was also centered on bilateral trade in the backdrop of the pandemic, said Lavrov, who arrived in New Delhi on Monday for the first stop in a tour that includes visits to Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Iran and Egypt.

“We agreed to join efforts to overcome the decline in mutual trade caused by the pandemic, we are going to build up investments according to the national programs in our respective countries,” the Russian minister said.

Lavrov said that negotiations to reach a free trade agreement between India and the Eurasian Economic Union – consisting of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia – are set to begin “as soon as possible”

India is one of the largest arms importers in the world, and according to a report published last month by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, New Delhi was the main buyers of Russian weapons between 2016 and 2020.

In 2018, during Putin’s last visit to New Delhi, India signed an agreement to buy the Russian long-range surface-to-air missile system S400, with the missiles finally set to be handed over by the end of this year.

The deal raised heckles in the United States, with Washington even threatening of sanctions in the past.

“It wasn’t me who stated that the US exercises pressure on India, but (even if) any other country wants to sign agreements with Russia on the delivery of weapons or has such contacts, the US openly talks (of sanctions),” Lavrov said.

The Russian minister insisted that Washington’s reactions were not discussed in the meeting.

“Instead, we confirmed that we are going to deepen our military cooperation.”

The ongoing Afghan peace process was also part of the agenda, Jaishankar said, adding that “for India, what happens in Afghanistan impacts Its security directly.”

The Afghan government and Taliban have been involved in direct peace negotiations in Qatar since September.

The lack of progress in these talks led to Russia hosting a high-level conference in Moscow last month to discuss the situation in the presence of the US, China, Pakistan and the two Afghan parties.

The US is seeking to hold a similar event in Turkey during the next few weeks. (April 6, 2021,EFE-EPA)

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