Russian foreign minister Lavrov to visit India from Mar 31 to Apr 1

The focus of Lavrov\'s visit to New Delhi is expected to be on India\'s purchase of discounted Russian crude oil among others

New Delhi: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be on a two-day official visit to India from Thursday, his first trip to the country since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine last month.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a one-line statement to announce the visit.

"Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Mr. Sergey Lavrov will pay an official visit to New Delhi on 31 March -1 April 2022," it said.

The focus of Lavrov's visit to New Delhi is expected to be on India's purchase of discounted Russian crude oil and putting in place a rupee-ruble payment system for bilateral trade in view of the Western sanctions against Moscow, people familiar with the development said.

In the talks, India is also likely to press for ensuring timely delivery of various military hardware as well as components of the S-400 missile systems by Russia.

Lavrov began a two-day visit of China on Wednesday primarily to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of countries bordering Afghanistan that has been convened by Beijing to discuss the Afghan crisis.

He is expected to arrive in New Delhi on Thursday evening after concluding his visit to China.

The Russian foreign minister's visit to India coincides with that of US Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and German Foreign and Security Policy Advisor Jens Plotner.

Truss will visit India on March 31 while Singh is visiting India from March 30-31. Plotner is visiting India on Wednesday.

The British foreign secretary is set to hold talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited India. EU Special Envoy for the Indo-Pacific Gabriele Visentin visited New Delhi this week.

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland and foreign ministers of Austria and Greece were also in India last week.

Ahead of Lavrov's visit, Russian Ambassador to India Denis Alipov last week held a series of meetings with senior officials in the MEA.

The officials with whom Alipov held talks are Secretary (East) Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (West) Sanjay Verma and Secretary (Economic Relations) Dammu Ravi.

Unlike many other leading powers, India has not yet criticised Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and it abstained from the votes at the UN platforms in condemning the Russian aggression.

However, last Thursday, India abstained on a resolution pushed by Russia on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, which was seen as reflective of its neutral position on the conflict.

India has been pressing for the resolution of the crisis through diplomacy and dialogue.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held phone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24, March 2 and March 7.

Modi had spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy twice.

Last week, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in Parliament that India's position on the Ukraine conflict has been "steadfast and consistent" and that it has been seeking immediate cessation of violence.

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