Sushma Swaraj to visit Russia next week

New Delhi : Even as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's visit to Syria next week has been postponed in view of the prevailing situation in that war-torn nation, it was announced on Saturday that she will be visiting Russia on September 13-14 to attend an inter-governmental meeting.

"External Affairs Minister will visit Moscow on September 13-14 to hold the meeting of the 23rd India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Technical and Economic Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC) which is co-chaired by her and Yuri Borisov, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation," the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

"IRIGC-TEC is a standing body which annually meets and reviews ongoing activities of bilateral cooperation in the fields of bilateral trade and investment, science and technology, culture and other issues of mutual interest," it stated.

"The Commission, after taking stock of bilateral cooperation in various fields, will provide policy recommendations and directions in the concerned fields."

Sushma Swaraj's programme in Russia comes close on the heels of the first ever India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue here in which she, along with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis participated.

India and the US signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) after the 2+2 Dialogue which gives India access to high-end US defence technology.

However, speculation has been rife about the fate of India's plan to buy five Russian-made S-400 Triumf advanced air defence systems with the Trump administration's Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) coming into effect in January 2018.

CAATSA targets countries doing business with Russian, Iranian and North Korean defence companies and with India being a major defence partner of Russia, the S-400 deal has become a matter of concern since it is close to be concluded.

However, the US Senate last month passed a bill that gives India a partial waiver relief from sanctions against Russian firms and oligarchs, allowing it to keep buying Russia-made weapons in a landmark decision that is seen as a big diplomatic win for New Delhi.

Following the 2+2 Dialogue here on Thursday, Pompeo told the media that no decision has been made regarding the S-400 deal.

"We are working to impose CAATSA Section 231 in a way that is appropriate and lawful and to exercise that waiver authority only where it makes sense," he said.

"And we as a team, the national security team, will work on that, and as we continue to have these conversations with India about that, I think come to an outcome that makes sense for each of our two countries."

Sushma Swaraj's visit to Moscow comes ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to ndia next month for the annual bilateral summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Earlier on Saturday, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that Sushma Swaraj's visit to Syria, scheduled for next week, has been postponed.

"EAM's visit to Syria has been deferred due to the prevailing situation in that country," Kumar said in response to a query.

"Fresh dates will be decided in mutual consultation with the Syrian side," Kumar said.

This would have been the first high-level visit from India to Syria since civil war broke out in that West Asia nation in 2011.