Moscow: India's "time-tested and trust-based" relationship remains very strong and continues to grow, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Friday as he held "productive" talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to step up bilateral cooperation on space, nuclear, energy and defence sectors.
Jaishankar, who is here on a three-day visit, also discussed global and regional issues like the situation in Afghanistan, Iran and Syria.
He said the two leaders "made good progress" as part of preparations for the annual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin later this year.
"I would say the talks were as always very warm, comfortable, comprehensive and productive," Jaishankar said.
He said his talks with Lavrov showed that "despite the fact that so many things are changing in our world both before and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our time-tested and trust-based relationship is very much not just in place but remains very strong, continues to grow."
Jaishanakar expressed appreciation for the support India got from Russia during the second wave of the Covid pandemic this year.
India, he said, has always seen its relationship with Russia as a contribution to global peace, security and stability.
"I think what makes our working together so natural and comfortable is our belief in a multipolar global order. We consider that to be a reflection of a very natural and inevitable process of evolution of inter-state relations in the 21st century," he added.
He said his bilateral talks with Lavrov focused on reviewing the progress in different dimensions of their broad-ranging cooperation.
"We have actually made very good progress even though for the last one year a lot of this has been through virtual contacts and I can assure you that when the Annual Bilateral Summit takes place this year, the development, the progress in our cooperation will be very much on display before all of you.
"A new dimension that has been added to our relationship of course is the agreement to hold the 2+2 Dialogue of Foreign and Defence Ministers. We felt that we should do that sometime as per mutual convenience this year. Otherwise, I can say we are very satisfied with the all-round development of our relations," he said.
A lot of our cooperation is focused on the nuclear, space, energy and defence sectors, he said.
"The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant project is on track and you heard Foreign Minister Lavrov tell you that the concrete first pour for Unit 5 has taken place. Space again has both practical and I would say symbolic importance for our relationship," Jaishankar said.
Russia has been India's "original and strongest partner" on the space sector, he said.
"The energy cooperation between us has grown very significantly in the last few years reflected both in new potential investments and long term commitments which we have agreed to in the field of oil and gas," Jaishankar said.
"Our defence military-technical cooperation but I would say even industrial collaboration today has been strengthened by Russian interest in the 'Make in India' programme, which is very visible."
They also discussed greater inter-regional cooperation particularly with the Russian Far East region.
"We spoke about how we could take that forward, there are some agreements which have to be signed, I think we have made some progress there. We discussed connectivity, especially the North-South Corridor... the Chennai-Vladivostok Eastern Maritime Corridor as well.
He shared with Lavrov India's plan and ideas when the country will hold the Presidency of the Security Council in August.
"We obviously value Russian participation and cooperation. ...We've worked very cooperatively and positively, so the strength of our strategic partnership is expressed today when it comes to deliberations in the UN," he said.
The two leaders also discussed their cooperation in BRICS and the RIC.
India is currently the chair of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and also of the RIC (Russia, India and China).
"We have common membership of G-20, of ASEAN led forums, SCO and CICA. We have an SCO Foreign ministers' meeting coming up very soon," he said.
They also discussed the situation in Afghanistan where Taliban militants have seized dozens of districts in recent weeks and are now thought to control about a third of the country, ahead of the complete withdrawal of US and Western troops from the war-torn country.
"The situation in Afghanistan occupied a lot of our attention because it has a direct implication for regional security. We believe that the immediate need of the day is really a reduction in violence and if we have to see peace within Afghanistan and around Afghanistan," Jaishankar said.
"It is important for India and Russia to work together and ensure that much of the progress that we've seen in economic, social and democratic terms are maintained. We are both committed to an independent, sovereign, united and democratic Afghanistan," he added.
They also discussed the situation in Syria, the Iran issue and Libya.
"We have both long standing interests in the region. We believe that peace and stability in such a sensitive region is very very important for global interest," he said.
Jaishanakr also shared his viewpoint on the Indo-Pacific, a region which has seen aggressive behaviour from China.
"We of course because of our larger geopolitical compatibility with Russia, we see a more active Russian presence and participation in the region as something very very important," he said.