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The preparations for the next India-Russia summit are underway, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Friday. “We have a very well established arrangement of bilateral summits with the Russian Federation. Twenty-one such meetings have happened so far,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said.

“We are preparing to hold the next summit. We will share the dates with you as soon as we can,” he said. Mr Jaiswal’s comments at a media briefing came days after a Kremlin official in Moscow said active preparations are underway for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia.

“I can confirm that we are preparing a visit by the prime minister of India. We cannot (say) the dates as yet, because the dates are announced by the parties in agreement,” Yuri Ushakov, an assistant to the Russian president, said on Tuesday.

“But we are actively preparing. I will emphasise once again, this visit will take place,” he told reporters, replying to a question.

Diplomatic sources said the Indian prime minister’s day-long visit is being planned around July 8, adding there is no finality on the date yet various options are being explored.

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 Vladimir 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”.

Mr Modi and 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, Mr 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.

In reflection of its strong friendship with Russia, India has not yet condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and it has been maintaining that the crisis must be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue.

India’s import of Russian crude oil has also gone up significantly notwithstanding the G7 price cap and increasing disquiet over the procurement in many Western countries.

In December 2022, the G7 grouping and its allies announced a cap on the price of Russian oil as part of a series of punitive measures against Moscow in view of its invasion of Ukraine. The price cap restricts countries to pay more than USD 60 a barrel.

Russia has been a longstanding and time-tested partner for India. Development of India-Russia relations has been a key pillar of India’s foreign policy.