New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today left on an eight-day visit to five Central Asian countries as also Russia, aiming to enhance strategic, economic and energy ties besides attending Summits of BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
The Prime Minister's visit will start with Uzbekistan from where he will go to Kazakhstan tomorrow. He will then travel to Russia on July 8, before flying to Turkmenistan on July 10, Kyrgyzstan on July 11 and Tajikistan on July 12.
Modi will be the first Indian PM in recent times to visit all five Central Asian countries at one go.
Trade with the resource-rich region, in which China has made major inroads, stands at a paltry $1.6 billion. India will seek to boost energy cooperation and trade with the five nations, which were part of the erstwhile Soviet Union.
Connectivity, especially through the proposed North South Transport Corridor, will be on top of the agenda between Modi and the Central Asian leaders.
In Ufa, the summit of the five BRICS countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- comes as the board of governors of the BRICS bank, called the New Development Bank, holds its first meet in on Tuesday. The bank's president is India's M.V. Kamath.
Writing about the visit on his Facebook page, Modi said his first stop will be Uzbekistan, where he will hold talks with President Islam Karimov and both sides would ink key agreements to strengthen cooperation.
Modi said he would be interacting with Indologists, students learning Hindi and members of the Indian community.
"It was in Tashkent that we lost one of our most popular and respected leaders, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri ji, who ignited our nation with the clarion call of 'Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan'. I will be paying my tributes to this proud son of India during the visit," Modi said.
In Kazakhstan, his next stop which he will visit on July 7-8, Modi said he will hold talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Prime Minister Karim Massimov.
"There will be delegation level talks with President Nazarbayev followed by the signing of documents and a joint press statement," he said.
Modi said he looks forward to interacting with the youth of Kazakhstan at the Nazarbayev University.
He will also inaugurate the India-Kazakhstan Centre for Excellence in Information and Communication Technology at the L.N. Gumilev Eurasian National University and also join a wreath-laying ceremony and planting of sapling at the Monument of Defenders of Motherland.
Modi will then visit Ufa for the 7th BRICS Summit and SCO Summit.
He expressed hope that the BRICS summit would build on the ground covered during the last summit in Fortaleza, Brazil.
"I expect positive outcomes in economic cooperation and cultural ties among the BRICS nations."
Modi said he will be meeting the leaders - Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, China's Xi Jinping, Russia's Vladimir Putin and South Africa's Jacob Zuma - individually too at the Ufa and also meet business leaders.
At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, India is an observer but is hoping to be included as a permanent member.
He flies to Turkmenistan on July 11 -- in the first visit by an Indian prime minister after P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1995.
Modi said he will hold talks with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, which would be followed by signing of agreements and a meeting with the press.
Areas for boosting ties include tourism, fertilizers, space, science and technology and defence.
"Our bilateral trade is way below its potential and I am confident we can improve it," Modi said.
He will also inaugurate a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and a Traditional Medicine and Yoga Centre and also lay wreath at the mausoleum of the first president.
His next visit on July 12 would be to Kyrgyzstan, in the first prime ministerial visit in the last 20 years.
Modi would hold talks with President Almazbek Atambaye and also meet Prime Minister Semir Tariyev and Speaker of the Parliament Asylbek Jeenbekov.
India is gifting medical equipment to Kyrgyz Field Hospital.
Modi will inaugurate tele-medicine links, which shall promote medical tourism from Kyrgyzstan to India. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi will also be unveiled.
"I will have the opportunity to visit the Kyrgyz-India Mountain Biomedical Research Centre and join the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Victory Monument in Bishkek," he said.
On Tajikistan, his last stop, Modi said the last prime ministerial visit from India was by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in November 2003.
He said India and Tajikistan have a strategic partnership and very strong defence cooperation, but economic cooperation has been limited and the scope of growth was immense. Bilateral trade has huge potential.
"My visit will build on the existing strong diplomatic and defence ties and script a fresh chapter in our economic ties. I look forward to meeting President Emomali Rahmon. Key agreements will also be signed after our meeting. I will gifting medicines for the India-Tajikistan Friendship Hospital," he said.
A statue of Rabindranath Tagore will also be unveiled in Dushanbe.
(With inputs from Agencies)