We seek to play supportive role for peaceful region: PM Modi ahead of talks with Putin

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New Delhi, Jul 8 (PTI) India seeks to play a supportive role for a peaceful and stable region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday as he embarked on a two-day high-profile visit to Russia in his first trip to that country since the start of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to host a private dinner for the Indian prime minister tonight ahead of Tuesday's talks at the 22nd India-Russia summit in Moscow.

It is Modi's first trip to Russia since 2019, the first after the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022, and also the first bilateral visit abroad in his third term as the prime minister.

After concluding his engagements in Russia on July 9, Modi will leave for Austria in the first visit by an Indian prime minister to that country in over 40 years.

The focus of the Modi-Putin summit talks are expected to be on further boosting bilateral cooperation in trade, energy and defence. The Ukraine conflict is set to figure in the discussions.

"The special and privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia has advanced over the past 10 years, including in the areas of energy, security, trade, investment, health, education, culture, tourism and people-to-people exchanges," Modi said in his departure statement.

"I look forward to reviewing all aspects of bilateral cooperation with my friend President Vladimir Putin and sharing perspectives on various regional and global issues," he said.

"We seek to play a supportive role for a peaceful and stable region," he said without making any specific references.

New Delhi has been stoutly defending its "special and privileged strategic partnership" with Russia and maintained the momentum in the ties notwithstanding the Ukraine conflict.

India has not yet condemned Russia's attack on Ukraine and consistently pitched for resolution of the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy.

The prime minister said the visit will also provide him an opportunity to meet the vibrant Indian community in Russia.

In a post on 'X', Modi said: "Over the next three days, will be in Russia and Austria. These visits will be a wonderful opportunity to deepen ties with these nations, with whom India has time tested friendship." On his trip to Austria on July 9 to 10, the prime minister described the country as India's "steadfast and reliable partner".

"In Austria, I will have the opportunity to meet President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Karl Nehammer," Modi said.

"Austria is our steadfast and reliable partner and we share the ideals of democracy and pluralism." "This is the first visit of an Indian prime minister in over 40 years. I look forward to my discussions to take our partnership to even greater heights in new and emerging areas of innovation, technology and sustainable development among others," he said.

Modi said he was looking forward to exchanging views with business leaders from both sides to explore mutually beneficial trade and investment opportunities.

"I will also be interacting with the Indian community in Austria which is well regarded for their professionalism and conduct," he said.

Ahead of Modi's visit to Moscow, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the agenda will be "extensive".

"Obviously, the agenda will be extensive, if not to say overbusy. It will be an official visit, and we hope that the heads will be able to talk in an informal way as well," he said.

In the talks, Modi is expected to urge that Russian end recruitment of Indians as support staff to the Russian military and ensure return to home of those still operating in the force.

The annual summit between the prime minister of India and the president of Russia is the highest institutional dialogue mechanism in the strategic partnership between the two countries.

The annual summits are held alternatively in India and Russia.

The last summit was held on December 6, 2021 in New Delhi. President Putin had visited India to attend the summit.

The summit saw both sides sealing 28 MoUs and agreements besides coming out with a joint statement titled "India-Russia Partnership for Peace, Progress and Prosperity".

Prime Minister Modi and President Putin last held bilateral talks on the margins of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at Samarkand in Uzbekistan on September 16, 2022.

In the meeting, Modi had famously pressed Putin to end the conflict in Ukraine saying, "Today's era is not of war".

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Modi has held several telephonic conversations with Putin and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. PTI MPB DV DV