Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Russia on Monday for a two-day official visit at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend the 22nd India-Russia annual summit where the two will review a range of bilateral issues from boosting trade and reducing the current imbalance to cooperation in energy, education, defence and payment systems.

This is the Indian PM’s first visit to Russia since Moscow attacked Ukraine in February 2022 leading to a series of economic sanctions against the country from the US and the EU. 

According to Kremlin, the West is closely monitoring Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Moscow with a sense of jealousy. “They are jealous. That means they are closely monitoring it. Their close monitoring means they attach great importance to it. And they are not mistaken, there is something to attach great importance to,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in an interview to the Russian media on Sunday.

The ‘Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership’ between India and Russia has advanced over the past ten 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 on Monday morning ahead of his visit to Russia and Austria.

“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. We seek to play a supportive role for a peaceful and stable region. The visit will also provide me an opportunity to meet the vibrant Indian community in Russia, Modi said.

Both sides are currently working on a series of outcome documents in a number of areas, which would be the result of the summit, according to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Modi is scheduled to attend a private dinner in the evening of his arrival hosted by Putin.

On Tuesday, Modi and Putin will hold  restricted level talks which will be followed by delegation level talks led by the two. He will then leave for Vienna for the second leg of his two-nation tour.

The PM is also scheduled to meet the Indian community in Russia on Tuesday and lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Kremlin. A visit to the Rosatom Pavilion at the exhibition venue in Moscow is also on the programme.

The 22nd annual summit between India and Russia would provide an opportunity to the two leaders to review the whole range of bilateral issues, including defence, trade linkages, investment ties, energy cooperation, science & technology, education, culture, and people-to-people exchanges, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra recently said at a media briefing on the visit.

“They would also share perspectives on regional and global developments of mutual interest. They would also assess the status of bilateral engagements in groupings such as BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, G20, East Asia Summit, and the UN,” he said.

The issue of early discharge of Indian nationals who have been misled into the service of the Russian army is also expected to figure in the discussions, Kwatra said.

India’s growing trade deficit with Russia is likely to feature prominently on Modi’s agenda in his talks with Putin. Following the West’s sanctions on Russia to punish it for its attack on Ukraine, India’s oil purchase from Russia, offered at a cheaper price, increased several fold pushing its total imports from the country to about $61 billion. However, its exports to Russia are at about $4 billion leading to a big trade deficit of more than $56 billion.

Kwatra said attempts have to be made to increase exports from India in all sectors, whether agriculture, manufacturing pharmaceuticals or services. 

Investment ties between the two countries are also growing in sectors such as energy, banking, railways, and steel.

At the bilateral meet, the two sides may also take forward the ongoing talks on allowing RuPay and Mir cards transactions in each other’s country for easy payments, sources said.