External Affairs Minister Jaishankar set to visit Russia this week

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New Delhi, Jul 5 (PTI) External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is set to visit Moscow this week to prepare the ground for the annual India-Russia summit and discuss the fast-evolving situation in Afghanistan, people familiar with the development said on Monday.

Ways to boost cooperation under the framework of the India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Cultural Cooperation as well as ties in the defence sector are also likely to figure in his talks in Moscow.

The external affairs minister is scheduled to hold extensive talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

The annual India-Russia summit was postponed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both countries have a mechanism under which India's prime minister and the Russian president hold a summit meeting annually to review the entire gamut of ties.

So far, 20 annual summit meetings have taken place alternatively in India and Russia.

Russia has been a time-tested partner for India and the country has been a key pillar of New Delhi's foreign policy.

The people cited above said a key focus area of the discussions will be the evolving situation in Afghanistan in the face of the withdrawal of the US forces from the country.

Afghanistan witnessed a series of attacks in the last few weeks as the United States looked to conclude the withdrawal of its forces from the war-ravaged country by September 11, ending nearly two decades of its military presence there.

India is concerned over the increasing levels of violence in Afghanistan as well as the Taliban's efforts to expand its influence in the country.

Last month, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the Taliban's relentless pursuit of power through violence has created an uncertain environment in Afghanistan and the situation in the country is 'fluid' at this point in time.

There has been a renewed push in the Afghan peace process including by Russia and it has been in touch with the key players and stakeholders in that country.

Lavrov visited India in April during which both sides discussed the preparations for the summit as well as other key bilateral and regional issues. PTI MPB RC

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