How important are the ties between Russia and India today?
As regards Russia, we have always attached exceptional importance to our cooperation and interaction with India, even before its independence. We were first to establish diplomatic relations four months before India became free. Over all these years strategic partnership with India has remained a cornerstone of Russia’s foreign policy. As we understand these relations were important for India as well. I agree that this is a brilliant and graphic example of bilateral ties when we work together for the betterment of the world, for eradicating the scourges of new threats and challenges facing the world today. It is our important contribution to the world politics.
Many things unite us such as our joint combat against international terrorism, our assessment of the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our approaches are similar or identical. That is why the joint work of two great nations – Russia and a super-power-in the making, India, – stands as a weighty factor in the world politics which other countries have to take due account of.
This is your second term as Ambassador in Delhi. And you were the Ambassador here five years ago. In the space of these five years what difference do you see in the ties between our countries?
Our ties have become much more mature because we have always cooperated very closely in such crucial areas as defense, space, industries, etc. In these five years our relations have risen to a qualitatively higher level. It is not a secret that we do not cooperate with all countries in such state-of-the-art, razor-edge technologies as nuclear energy, space and in such confidential sphere as defence. This gives me reason to assert that the relations have matured a lot. The good testimony to that is a never-ending stream of visitors which we have had during the last month. In December, Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, visited Moscow. It was a regular summit but it was crowned by a momentous important nuclear agreement which was initialed in Moscow and will be signed during the visit of Mr Vladimir Putin next March. Recently we had the visit of Mr V.Churov, Chief Election Commissioner, who specially came here to congratulate his colleague on the 60th Jubilee of India’s Election Commission. Just s few days ago we welcomed here Mr Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council, who was the first foreign guest to be received by Mr Shiv Shankar Menon, the newly appointed National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister. On February 14th and 15th Mr Sergey Sobyanin, Deputy Prime Minister and the Head of staff of the Government, is arriving here to do the ground work for the visit of Mr Vladimir Putin. By the end of the current year our President, Mr Dmitry Medvedev will arrive in India. The dates will be coordinated through diplomatic channels but he will arrive for his regular annual summit with Dr Manmohan Singh. I think such extremely busy schedule shows the highest priority which we attach to the relations of strategic cooperation with India.
When two countries have such strong bilateral ties they always share some complementarity in terms of the outlook or business ties or background. What is it about India and Russia that actually makes them allies in this march?
It happens because our two countries have coinciding or similar fundamental national interests. We want to build a better future for our nations, to achieve better results in our economic development and stronger democracy. We want the world to be a quieter and more comfortable place to live in. We share common concerns as regards the situation in South Asia and the assessment of the scourge of international terrorism. As a historian of diplomacy I would say that since its very inception the relationship between our countries has been a unique example in the mankind’s diplomatic history of the last century. We have never had any differences, we have always stood together and this is a unique phenomenon when the grass-root people have such strong attachment and affection for each other.
One of the areas of close cooperation that you mentioned is defense. How strong is our relationship? How do you see that going forward now?
As I have mentioned, it is the most confidential sphere of our interaction. It is not that we share our defense technologies with any other country in the same open and sincere manner as we do it with India, be it the Air force, the Navy or the Army. The number of Russian planes which are in service in the Indian Air Forces is quite high, about 80 p.c. It indicates the high degree of confidentiality and trust in each other and shows that we can share with our Indian friends the most intimate defence secrets or technologies we have at our disposal.
Now India is also looking around for new partners, such as Israel, the United States, and France who are very strong contenders. India still has Russia as the main and the largest supplier. What is your vision in this respect?
I think this cooperation will continue to flourish. We can easily understand India’s desire to have new partners. Russia itself has good defence partnerships with western countries. That is why we do not feel jealous when Russia’s sister - India as a rich bride is looking for bridegrooms elsewhere. Indian requirements for self-defense are so high that there will be enough room for all countries. We also can cite a very good example of trilateral cooperation – the AWACS plane which is a product of cooperation among Russia, India and Israel. We understand that technology is running ahead so fast that if an individual country is ahead of some other countries, why can’t we share it among ourselves to get joint and common product?
Now it comes to the point I started today with – the centre place of diplomacy in the 21st century. Do you think it is a fact that while countries are working together, unilateralism has fallen out of the field?
We are ready to work together with all countries on an equal basis, but it does not happen in all cases. There are countries that are against team work. They still think that they can rule the world alone. Our assessment of such actions is common with India: we stand for a polycentric, multipolar world that would be like a big symphonic orchestra where every country will play its individual colourful and specific part.
How do India and Russia work together in such formats as BRIC, the SCO, etc?
There are active exchanges going on in the framework of RIC, BRIC and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, but we need time to cement the understanding in these associations. We are very hopeful and optimistic as regards the mentioned formats, because these are not military or political blocs aimed against any third party or a group of countries. We are just three, four or more strong countries which have common approaches on a number of issues crucial for humanity and the world politics. These common approaches do not mean that we are conspiring against, but together we work for the good ideals. Our cooperation is mutually beneficial and seeks a better life for our peoples and a better world to live in.
Now when you just look at Russia and India, what are the key challenges that both countries face?
The challenges of development and progress. We are also developing our economy. In this sense, India is in a better position because you have mastered free market economy for a much longer period of time than Russia. It has been only 20 years that we have been building our market economy. We are freshies in that rough world because during the 73 years of the communist rule we forgot how such economy worked, though Russia used to be a well-developed capitalist economy before the revolution. By re-emerging we strive to build a better life for our countries and better conditions for Russia in the world diplomacy. But we are against any forceful methods, we are for doing this in harmony with all other nations, especially with our immediate neighbours, the former republics of the Soviet Union, as well as together with our traditional and sometimes newly acquired friends.
When you look at the global challenges: the global warming, the financial slowdown, terrorism, how can countries work together, particularly India and Russia?
We can learn a lot from you, which we do. It is not a secret that even against background of the world economic crisis India has succeeded in choosing better ways to escape the harsh consequences of that recession. It is a very welcome development. You were very sensitive to the world trends. Even now you have such high growth rate of your economy – more than 7.7 p.c. – which we would dream of. It is due to a wise economic policy of not associating with speculative capitals in the West. We need your experience because, unfortunately, we have suffered much more than India, since our economy has been oriented towards outside markets more than inside, unlike yours. So we need your experience as regards the global challenges. As I have mentioned, our position on international terrorism and the necessity to combat it with all possible means and methods remains the same. Russia, like India being a victim of international terrorism, understands your feelings very well. As far as the global warming is concerned, there is no much difference in our understanding of the situation, with India having its own position which we respect. Russia after all is being not the greatest polluter or the culprit in changing the ecological face of the Earth.
We have talked about development, now if you look at the economic ties between India and Russia, they still have not reached their full potential. It is currently around $10 billion, but there is talk of reaching $20 billion in another five years.
When talking about economic relationship, we have to clearly divide this into two categories, i.e. common trade, which is, unfortunately, not to the best of our expectations. Our present turnover is around $7.5 billion, which is just peanuts for such mighty powers as India and Russia, considering our potential and our abilities. If we mention the construction of Kudankulam nuclear power station, it is also economic cooperation. It is the best, shining example of good economic cooperation. We have almost completed two units with four or even six units more in the anvil making it all-together eight. We have also got a new site in West Bengal to build four or six NPP units. We understand that India’s requirements in energy are growing in geometrical proportion and nuclear energy is the only real way to meet those requirements.
We wish trade figures were higher. We want to reach $10 billion this year or next year. Then we want to have it 15 or even 20 billion. In this field the sky is the limit. But again, I would like to say that our Indian partners, private businesses should be more energetic, should be more forceful even aggressive, because the Soviet times are over, when we would deliver our contracts and orders on a silver plate. They have to find business opportunities themselves, but they have been slow. First they were blaming the crime situation – but now it is all in the past, the situation has drastically changed. Then there were deficiencies in the Russian law which prevented them from coming to Russia. Now this has been also changed by Mr Putin’s and Mr Medvedev’s governments. So they should be more active.
One of the problem areas in economic equation is that it is mostly commodities, it is not diversified in services.
I agree that we have to diversify our trade relations to services, not only commodities, so that India would buy from us not only oil or other raw materials but services and technologies as well. There is a very good example. I remember the times when Russia built India’s first antibiotics plant in Rishikesh. But now we are inviting and welcoming our Indian friends to come to my country and open joint ventures in pharmaceuticals, especially in our provinces. But joint ventures always need start-up capital. Let it be 49/51. Unfortunately, our friends are not so eager to spend one rupee for investment in order to get two or three or five the day after tomorrow. Much hope is still laid on ‘sell and buy’.
I think, part of the problem lies in the perception, common to the Indian planners as well, that Western Europe and North America are markets while Russia, South-East Asia, Africa and Latin America are a new and unexplored destinations. And that is something that Indian business has to work towards. What the Russian side could offer as an incentive in this respect?
I think that the major incentive is our favourable taxation climate with taxes being just flat 13%, excellent for bringing capitals in. Not many countries have such taxes. We have the most comfortable conditions for establishing and operating joint ventures in the already mentioned area of drugs and pharmaceuticals, the support has been guaranteed at the highest level.
Regarding South Asia, it is not the best neighbourhood with a lot of internal strife and unstable governments. What is the common approach that you mentioned that Russia and India share?
We share a common approach towards the most burning issue in your neighbourhood, Afghanistan. Like India, we also think that there can be no moderate talibs, likewise it would be wrong to say that there can be a moderate Nazi or fascist. It is an oxymoron. We do want Afghanistan to have a better life, to be a more tranquil, peaceful and democratic country than it is now. At the same time, we are against immediate withdrawal of the allies from Afghanistan, because the situation inside, as we know, is not up to the required standards as regards security and other related matters. Then we all remember those tragic events which took place in Mumbai. We are in full solidarity with India as regards the necessity to eradicate with red-hot iron and with all our might such terrorist attacks, which both India and Russia, unfortunately, have to withstand.
Do you feel that the sense one gets from the recent proclamations from the US and its NATO allies in Afghanistan is that they want an exit policy from Afghanistan? Do you think that in the next few years there will be something good for the neighbourhood, given the current situation?
As far as I know, the Afghans want foreign forces out of their country, but we know that it cannot be done overnight. If it happens overnight, it can lead to much greater bloodshed. Unfortunately, we have the bitter experience of Afghanistan, but our withdrawal from Afghanistan was very well-prepared, thought out and, thank God, it was without bloodshed, when we left it in 1989.
One last question, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is coming to New Delhi next month. What can we expect from his visit?
Like any visit of such level from Russia to India, I think it will herald a deeper understanding between our leaders. As we know, this year will be the 10th anniversary of the historic Declaration on strategic partnership between Russia and India. Ten years have passed and Mr Vladimir Putin, who signed that document, is coming here. We have every reason to say that he has become the architect of a new strategic phase in our relations after the hazy uncertainties in Russia in the preceding period. In these ten years Russian-Indian relationship has seen many shining examples of very productive and useful cooperation. Of course, a number of agreements will be signed. We do welcome such intensive two-way traffic in our relationship. I wish it were as intensive as the Delhi traffic but, please, no gridlocks or jams!
We look forward to that as well. Thank you very much, Your Excellency.
The Interview with H.E. Mr Alexander Kadakin, Ambassador of Russia to India, was conducted by Russia Today TV channel on February 5, 2010
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