Prime Minister Narendra Modi is sending Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Moscow later this week to do the groundwork for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India later this year for the annual summit between the two countries.

The summit could not take place last year due to the situation arising from Covid-19.

Shringla’s visit to Moscow on 17-18 February at the invitation of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov is also aimed at sending a clear message to the Joe Biden administration that India would continue to deepen its time-tested friendship with Russia, notwithstanding continued American pressure.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) today announced that Shringla would hold the next round of India-Russia foreign office consultations with Morgulov during which the two sides would review the entire gamut of bilateral relations, including the forthcoming highlevel exchanges.

Shringla would also meet Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov for an exchange of views on topical issues of regional and international importance apart from delivering a speech on ’India-Russia relations’ at the prestigious Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic situation, India and Russia have sustained the momentum of the special and privileged Strategic Partnership between the two countries.

“This year’s first visit abroad by the Foreign Secretary to Moscow signifies the importance India attaches to its close and friendly relations with the Russian Feder ation,” the MEA said in a press release.

Last week, Indian Ambassador to Russia D B Venkatesh Varma had made it clear that India would go ahead with the S-400 missile defence system deal with Russia despite pressure from Washington.

“India has an independent foreign policy. We take decisions based on our defence and security needs. The S-400 contract is presently being implemented according to the schedule indicated in the contract,” he said in an interview to leading Russian online newspaper