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Foreign minister S Jaishankar will visit Moscow this week on a three day visit during which India and Russia are expected to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the fight against the covid-19 pandemic.

The Indian foreign ministry on Tuesday said in a statement that during the 7-9 July visit, Jaishankar will meet the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Yuri Borisov who is his counterpart for the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC).

Besides this, Jaishankar will also meet the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, Leonid Slutsky, the statement said.

With foreign minister Lavrov, “discussions are expected to cover the entire range of bilateral issues, including cooperation in the fight against the covid-19 pandemic as well as exchange of views on various regional and international issues," the statement said.

The situation in Afghanistan where the Taliban is reportedly rapidly gaining ground will be one of the key topics on the agenda, a person familiar with the development said. India, Iran and Russia were the main backers of an anti-Taliban alliance, between 1996-2001, when the Taliban was in control of Kabul. This time round, Moscow has been holding talks with Pakistan seen as the main backer of the Taliban as well as with the Taliban itself. Moscow has also hosted some rounds of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government representatives aimed at finding a solution to the unrest in the country.

The covid-19 pandemic is expected to be another key issue on the agenda. India has given the go ahead for the use of the Russia developed Sputnik vaccine to inoculate people in India. While several hundreds of thousands of doses of Sputnik vaccines were sent to India in May during a brutal second wave of the pandemic, India is also seen as a leading production hub for Sputnik V with Russia Direct Investment Fund having signed agreements with Indian pharmaceutical companies such as Gland Pharma, Hetero Biopharma, Panacea Biotec, Stelis Biopharma, Morepen Laboratories and Virchow Biotech for the production of the Covid-19 vaccine locally, news reports said. In total, agreements with partners in India provide for production of more than 850 million doses of Sputnik V per year.

“The visit will be in continuation of the frequent high-level visits between the two sides. The Russian Foreign Minister had visited New Delhi in April 2021. The visit will further strengthen the ‘Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership’ between the two countries," the Indian foreign ministry statement added.

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