Prime Minister Narendra Modi today left on an eight-day visit to five Central Asian countries as also Russia, aiming to enhance strategic, economic and energy ties besides attending the summits of BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

The Prime Minister’s visit will start with Uzbekistan from where he will go to Kazakhstan tomorrow. He will then travel to Russia on July 8, before flying to Turkmenistan on July 10, Kyrgyzstan on July 11 and Tajikistan on July 12.

The SCO Summit, to be held in Ufa in Russia, may see India getting membership of the six-nation grouping comprising China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which could be a major highlight of the visit. As of now, India has only observer status.

The Summit of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), the important economies across the world, will focus on discussions on enhancing cooperation in the economic field, including the possibility of trade in the local currency.

With the BRICS Development Bank already set up, the summit could look at the possibility of starting credit facilities in the local currency. The first head of the bank is Indian banker K V Kamath.

During the visit to the five Central Asian nations, the first by an Indian Prime Minister to all of them together, the focus will be on enhancing trade, which is “not impressive”, and cooperation in energy and security, the Ministry of External Affairs had said last week.

An effort will also be made to push the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) project, which is crucial for India’s energy needs as it will carry gas from Central Asia. It has been hampered because of a lack of physical connectivity.