Moscow (PTI): Ways to further shore up India-Russia cooperation in sectors such as energy, trade, manufacturing and fertilisers are expected to be the focus of summit talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin here on Tuesday.

The war in Ukraine is also set to figure prominently at the talks. Top sources said the Indian side is likely to reaffirm its position that dialogue and diplomacy are the only way forward to resolve the conflict as there can't be any solution on the battlefield.

Prime Minister Modi on Monday began a two-day high-profile visit to Russia to hold the 22nd India-Russia annual summit with President Putin, in his first trip since the start of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Last night, the Russian president hosted a private dinner for the Indian prime minister at the former's residence in Novo-Ogarevo on the outskirts of Moscow.

The focus of the prime minister's visit is to advance an economic agenda, especially in areas of energy, trade, manufacturing and fertilisers, the sources said.

Shortly after landing in Moscow, Modi said he is looking forward to deepening bilateral partnership in futuristic areas and that stronger ties between India and Russia will "greatly benefit our people".

India seeks to play a "supportive role" for a peaceful and stable region, the prime minister said in his departure statement in what is seen as an apparent reference to the Ukraine conflict.

In the talks, Modi is expected to urge the Russian end recruitment of Indians as support staff to the Russian military and ensure return to home of those still operating in the force.

It is Modi's first trip to Russia since 2019, the first after the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022 and first in Modi's third term as the prime minister.

"The special and privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia has advanced over the past 10 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.

"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," he said.

New Delhi has been stoutly defending its "special and privileged strategic partnership" with Russia and maintained the momentum in the ties notwithstanding the Ukraine conflict.

India has not yet condemned Russia's attack on Ukraine and consistently pitched for resolution of the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy.

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 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".

Prime Minister Modi and President 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, 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 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

 

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New Delhi, Jul 22: The government on Monday cited an inter-ministerial group report prepared in 2012 to assert that a case for granting special category status to Bihar is not made out; a stand which came a day after BJP's allies from Bihar demanded the status for the backward state.

In a written reply in the Lok Sabha on the first day of the Monsoon session, Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary said special category status was granted in the past by the National Development Council (NDC) to some states which were characterised by a number of features necessitating special consideration.

These included hilly and difficult terrain, low population density or sizeable share of tribal population, strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries, economic and infrastructural backwardness and non-viable nature of state finances, he said in reply to a question asked by JD(U) member Rampreet Mandal.

The decision was taken based on an integrated consideration of all the factors listed above and the peculiar situation of a state, the minister said.

"Earlier, the request of Bihar for Special Category Status was considered by an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) which submitted its Report on 30th March 2012. The IMG came to the finding that based on existing NDC criteria, the case for Special Category Status for Bihar is not made out," the minister said.

The Congress-led UPA was in power at the time.

JD(U) leader Sanjay Kumar Jha had voiced his party's demand for the status at an all-party meeting on Sunday. The Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), also a BJP ally, and the opposition RJD echoed the same demand at the meeting.

The JD(U), though, has already conveyed to the Centre that it is willing to settle for a special financial package in case the status cannot be granted to the state.

The BJD and the YSR Congress had made the same demand for Odisha and Andhra Pradesh respectively in the meeting.

The government has in the past also argued that the 14th Finance Commission report has ruled out the possibility of any more states being granted the status, which includes tax relief and higher central funding for the beneficiary states.