Astana: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, said that the economic relationship between India and Russia has grown tremendously, and the upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be a great opportunity for the leaders to discuss ties between two nations.

Pointing to the delay in holding the annual summit between New Delhi and Moscow, he laid emphasis on starting it again terming it a "good way to take stock of relationship".

EAM Jaishankar represented India at the SCO Summit, which was held under Kazakhstan's presidency in Astana.

Speaking to ANI, Jaishankar said, "There was a bit of a delay in our annual summits, it is a good tradition, we are two countries which have a strong history of working together. We did value the need for an annual summit. Last year when I went to Moscow, I carried a message from the PM that we are committed to the annual summit and we will do it sooner rather than is a regular recurrence. It is a way of taking stock of any relationship."

"One of the big changes has been, that our economic relationship with Russia has grown the leadership of level, it will be a great opportunity for PM Modi and (Russian) President Putin to sit down and directly talk to each other," he added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be on an official visit to Russia and Austria from July 8-10.

PM Modi will be in Moscow from July 8-9 at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold the 22nd India-Russia Annual Summit. The two leaders will review entire range of multifaceted ties between India and Russia.

After concluding his visit to Russia, PM Modi will travel to Austria from July 9-10. It will be first visit of Indian Prime Minister to Austria in 41 years.

Speaking further, the Foreign Minister said he strongly raised the issue of Indians stranded in the conflict zone in Russia during his meeting with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, and stressed that it is unacceptable that Indian citizens find themselves in the army of another country in a warzone, adding that New Delhi needs a much stronger 'follow-up' from Moscow.

When asked whether the issue of Indians stranded in Russia was raised during the bilateral meeting, Jaishankar said, "Absolutely...very clearly and strongly... several Indians have been pressed into services with Russian Army, only when they come back we will know the full circumstances. But, whatever the circumstances are, to us it is unacceptable that Indian citizens find themselves in the army of another country in a warzone."

The EAM further highlighted that the Ministry of External Affairs is already speaking up with the Russian Defence Ministry, adding that India will continue to take up the issue till all Indians stranded there come back.

"I told him (Lavrov) that we seek their cooperation and that they are our friend and partner. We have to find a way so that these people can return to India as quickly and effectively as possible," Jaishankar said.

He added, "He appreciated the point...Foreign Ministry has been speaking to the Russian Defence Ministry in this regard. I urged him that we need a much stronger follow-up...I have taken it up and I intend to continue taking it up until all our people there come back."

Notably, around 20 others were allegedly duped into fighting for Russian Army in the war against Ukraine on the pretext of lucrative jobs. At least two Indians have died.

The MEA confirmed in April, that among the Indian nationals who were working as support staff in the Russian Army, 10 have returned to India

Earlier this year, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), busted a major human trafficking network running across the country targeting Indian nationals on the promise of offering lucrative jobs abroad but allegedly sending them to the Russia-Ukraine war zone.

Speaking on his meeting with other counterparts, the EAM said with some people it was courtesy meeting, while it was more detailed meeting with others. He added that several ministers extended their best wishes for PM Modi securing a third consecutive term.

"With some people, it was courtesy (meeting) and with some, it was a more detailed (meeting)...many of the Central Asian leaders, they gave me a chance to sit down and talk to them about our relationship. I also had the privilege of having a conversation with the Emir of Qatar...there were different people present thing all of them told me was to convey to PM the best wishes and congratulations for his 3rd term and that they're looking forward to the next opportunity to meet him and express that in person," Jaishankar further said.

(With Inputs From Agencies)