During his visit, Sergei Lavrov is likely to meet his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar, and could also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi

New Delhi: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be visiting India next week, with the trip expected to pave the way for the pending annual India-Russia Summit.

During his visit, Lavrov will meet his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar, and is also likely to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, official sources said.

The topics likely to be discussed include the Quad alliance between India, the US, Japan, and Australia, and New Delhi’s proposed purchase of the S-400 air defence system from Moscow, something Washington has been discouraging India from pursuing since former US President Donald Trump’s tenure.

According to sources, Lavrov’s visit will be followed by a trip by Russian President Vladimir Putin for the annual India-Russia Summit. The summit, which is held alternately in India and Russia, could not take place last year — with the Ministry of External Affairs citing Covid-19 as the reason.

Last year was the first year since 2000 when India and Russia did not hold the summit.

According to official sources, Lavrov will be accompanied by Russian special envoy to Afghanistan, Ambassador Zamir Kabulov. This is significant considering, earlier this month, Moscow hosted a meeting of the ‘extended troika’ — comprising representatives from the US, China and Pakistan — that was aimed at taking stock of the intra-Afghan dialogue.

Kabulov is expected to brief India on the status of the intra-Afghan dialogue, or the negotiations underway between the elected Afghan government and Taliban leaders to establish peace in the country, under the Moscow format.
S-400, Quad on agenda

The visit comes days after India participated in the first-ever summit-level meeting of the Quad, or Quadrilateral countries, a coalition Russia sees as an anti-China initiative.

India is expected to once again make a pitch to Russia to get engaged in the Indo-Pacific strategic initiative, something New Delhi has been pushing for in the last couple of years, sources said

Discussions will also be held on India’s proposed purchase of the S-400, an issue that was raised by the Joe Biden administration during the visit of US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this month.

The S-400 is expected to be India’s air defence umbrella and the main pillar of the Indian Air Force’s defence grid. India is believed to have informed Washington that the process to acquire the Russian system began much before the US introduced the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which attracts sanctions against countries involved in trade with Russia, besides Iran and North Korea.

Last year, Russia played a central role in easing tensions between India and China, which found themselves engaged in a months-long border stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.

It was in Moscow that the Indian and Chinese foreign as well as defence ministers met face-to-face last September, when tensions were at their peak following the Galwan Valley clash of 15 June. The peace road map Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi subsequently devised has come to be known as the ‘Moscow Agreement’.

According to sources, Lavrov’s visit to India was discussed during Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s trip to Moscow last month.

During his visit, Shringla had said both New Delhi and Beijing feel “comfortable” in discussing difficult issues in Moscow.

In December, MEA Secretary (West) Vikas Swarup visited Moscow for consultations on the UN Security Council.