Interview of H.E. Mr Alexander Kadakin, Ambassador of Russia to India, to the Pioneer and Navbharat Times on the occasion of the Russian Diplomatist Day

Monday, 15 February 2016 12:22

A.M.Kadakin: Tomorrow we are celebrating the Day of Russian Diplomatist, which embraces not only diplomats as such, but all people who work in the diplomatic service. This special Day in the Russian official calendar was established in December 2002 by President Vladimir Putin’s decree marking the respect our country has for the diplomatic workers and officers in embassies and consulates around the world and at headquarters. We are marking it with a feeling of great satisfaction with and great pride in the achievements reached by arduous work in implementing the policy of our President. There will be a celebration at the Embassy, a concert and a function in the House of Russian Centre of Science and Culture. It is the day when our general public specifically mentions and appreciates the work done by diplomats in safeguarding security and peaceful life of our nation, especially in today’s situation, which is far from tranquil – around us, around India and in the world at large. You know about the counterterror operation, which is carried out by Russia in Syria, by the Russian air and space forces and also the situation around Russia with the sanctions, imposed after the Crimea reunified with the Russian Federation after the referendum and the events in the Ukraine.

As regards sanctions, India like Russia has always been against them, and does not consider them to be a helpful instrument. I feel that the West has shot in its own leg by imposing sanctions. The whole world sees now that Russia is not experiencing any famine or hunger. Maybe instead of three hundred varieties of cheese we have only one hundred but they have not affected the Russian population. However, sanctions have severely affected European farmers. That is why we hear more and more voices in the West to lift the sanctions. Of course, the price of oil and gas, especially oil, has been falling, and it also creates a strain for our economy. We have to overcome this also. But on the whole we are confidently marching ahead and, I think, all forecasts of Russia ‘crumbling under those sanctions’, as was once predicted by President Obama, are very much premature.

As regards Russian-Indian relations, we are highly satisfied with the outcomes of the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Moscow last December. I will be very frank in saying that I had not expected the visit to be so fruitful and so productive, because till the last moment several agreements were not ready and I was rather pessimistic. The good results have exceeded all expectations. First of all, it applies to the serial construction of nuclear power units in India. The number of nuclear power units to be constructed in India with Russian assistance is 12, including the completed and running unit 1 of KNPP. Unit 2 will be commissioned to full capacity in about five-six months’ time, ground works for units 3 and 4 have already started, and talks are being held on the technical parameters of units 5 and 6. Another six units will be constructed at a new site, which most probably will be in Andhra Pradesh. The name of the place has not yet been announced.

Russia is the pioneer of peaceful nuclear power units in India. While we have almost completed unit two, India’s so-called newly acquired partners have not driven a nail at their sites. Until now they have not started even ground work. Maybe it happens because of the liability issue but it has not prevented Russia from going ahead. Pricewise the energy received from Kudankulam today is twice lower than the projected price for so far hypothetic French and American units. There is nothing at their sites – just wilderness.

Navbharat Times: India has ratified Vienna CSC convention.

A.M.Kadakin: It is a good sign, although it will not have a direct effect on our cooperation. There was another important feature of the summit – President Putin and Prime Minister Modi had a one-to-one meeting during dinner at the Kremlin. It shows there is a good chemistry in personal relationship between the two leaders. They both are very precise gentlemen who do not spend time on idle talking but act in practical terms. They both are result-oriented persons.

There was another important agreement reached in Moscow – an intergovernmental agreement on Ka-226T helicopters. It means Russia will help India to produce at least 200 machines here in India. It will be with HAL, which can choose even private partners. It is absolutely in tune with the “Make in India” programme launched by Prime Minister Modi.

Navbharat Times: And what about the S-400 complexes and the rent of another ‘Chakra’-type submarine?

A.M.Kadakin: Active talks are being held on both the subjects.

The Pioneer: Are you happy with the Russia-India defence relations which were robust in the past?

A.M.Kadakin: It would be absolutely wrong to say it was in the past. Defence cooperation is very robust now. It is a very stable relationship. We do not feel jealous when India wants to acquire some weaponry from other sources. We view India as a superpower in the making. For many decades we have been doing everything for India to become militarily, industrially, scientifically strong. It is absolutely wrong when media writes that Russian-Indian ties are not as strong as before. It happens because people do not know what they write. Please, name a country, which would rent a nuclear submarine to India? Name another country, which would refurbish and reconstruct aircraft carrier to make such a nice one as the Vikramaditya.

“Make in India” program is not a novelty for Russia. We have always been working according to this principle. The steel plants at Bhilai and Bokaro are still in India, not in Russia. The HAL factory producing planes is also in India as well as the small antibiotics plant in Rishikesh, which was the first in India’s progress towards superpower status in medicines.

The Pioneer: You are half-Russian and half-Indian now after so many years in India. Do you think you have seen ups and downs of our relations?

A.M.Kadakin: It has always been on a smooth and even keel with the exception maybe of a short period after the democratic revolution in Russia after 1991, when we were immersed so deeply in our own problems that the focus on India was less. It was a period of great hardships for Russia – we were undergoing transformations of never seen before dimensions. Even at that period we tried to sustain our relationship with friend India. President Yeltsin came to India in 1993 to sign the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. India around that time also started its economic reforms.

Navbharat Times: When did you first come to India?

A.M.Kadakin: I came here for the first time on August 9, 1971 as a probationer and the last year student of the Moscow State University of International Relations under the Foreign Ministry. I have been in India accumulatively for more than a quarter-century. It is my fourth posting and second one as Ambassador. I had four-year-interludes in Nepal and Sweden. But through my whole life I was closely connected with India. I participated in all Soviet-Indian and Russian-Indian summits since 1973 as an advisor and an expert of the delegation.

I have been full rank Ambassador since 1994. This happily makes me one of the senior most Ambassadors. First posting as an Ambassador to India was from 1999 to 2004, and the second one started in 2009.

Navbharat Times: Ambassador, in spite of very good political and strategic relations, our economic cooperation is not moving forward. What do you think is the barrier?

A.M.Kadakin: I do not think there are any barriers in our trade. The figures are hovering around $10 billion. Of course, for such giants as Russia and India these are peanuts. We must raise trade. I have been analyzing the reasons and I think that Russian and Indian businesses are both to blame.

On the one hand, maybe, Indian businessmen were spoilt by the former Soviet system of quotas, when, for example, producers of tea had a guaranteed quota of supplying, say, 10 000 tonnes of tea. Or the business people from Ludhiana who had a quota of 300 pieces for wool hosiery to be supplied to the Soviet Union. When we became a free market economy, one had to be more active. Maybe our Indian friends are somewhat lazy. They must be hyperactive in the Russian market like the Chinese and, until recently, Turkish companies. We would also welcome investments in pharmaceuticals but your people still prefer to sell us readymade generics. We would like to produce them together in Russia. Transportation is also a problem. We must rejuvenate and more actively use the North-South Corridor.

So, the blame is on the two sides. Of course, the recent agreement on oil between Rosneft and Essar will add $1 billion annually to our trade runover.

The Pioneer: What about culture and people-to-people contact? In our childhood, we were taught Russian at school…

A.M.Kadakin: There are many schools teaching Russian in Delhi and other cities in India now. Russian is becoming more and more popular. Russian classes at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture are absolutely packed. More and more tourists visit Russia. We hope we will have visa free tourist flow between India and Russia soon. Our shining ideal on the bright horizon is to have completely visa free travel between Russia and India. The visa process for business people has been simplified very much. They used to complain it was difficult to get a visa, now they get one even on the basis of a fax invitation. That problem has been removed. Now, there is visa on arrival scheme, which has been a great simplification too. So we need more touristic exchanges, we need concerts. In the second half of this year, we shall have the Festival of Russian Culture.

We welcome the fact that from February 15, India will take the baton of chairmanship in BRICS from Russia. We hope that India’s chair will be productive, fruitful and rich in content. India can offer the world so many good things according to traditions of Indian diplomacy, which we also value very highly. In our view Indian negotiators and diplomats are of highest professional caliber. We highly value our interaction with them, they are excellent but at times rather tough negotiators. A special trademark of Indian diplomacy is a very well prepared background for talks. They are very thoroughly versed in the situation and they have very flexible briefs for talks. There are many things we can borrow from our Indian colleagues.

You can write in capital letters: WRONG ARE THOSE PEOPLE WHO TRY TO COMPARE US WITH OTHER COUNTRIES. Our friendship and strategic partnership has a separate niche in our mutual interaction. And it would be wrong to say that India is drifting towards the US. Russian-Indian friendship as a bedrock – has been there, as Mr Modi said in Moscow, is there and will remain there. We give India the best we have at our disposal. If India finds anything better elsewhere, we do not feel offended. Olden time notions of “fighting for India” are ideological clichés. We are not going to fight for India, we are going to fight with India against terrorism and other evils of our times.

These clichés were there when the world was divided into two opposing blocks and we were ideologically infested by Marxism-Leninism or whatever it was. Now we do not have any guiding ideology. For example, as Ambassador I cannot be a member of any political party. It is forbidden by law.

Coming back to what you should also write in big letters – THERE IS A FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OUR FRIENDSHIP AND INDIA’S RELATIONS WITH OTHER COUNTRIES, AND THAT IS THE HONESTY OF PURPOSE. We are honest in helping India, in maintaining friendship with India. We want to see India strong. We do not have any second thoughts about that. Even in the worst of nightmares we cannot imagine that we shall ever be enemies or be against each other. It is impossible because this friendship has so deep roots and it has permeated into the psyche of the two nations that it is impossible to think of anything like this. We are clear, we are honest, we are sincere in pursuing this course of action.

The Pioneer: Ambassador, can we talk on terrorism? It is the biggest challenge of our times.

A.M.Kadakin: Unfortunately, we are in the same boat with India as regards terrorism. India knows not by hearsay what it means. We have been supporting India in her efforts to counter transborder terrorism, from Pakistan especially. ISIS is another scourge of the world and we are fighting it together. We have a very good machinery of consultations between Russia and India through foreign ministries, security councils and we have contacts between special agencies, we exchange information. It is a very productive dialogue, though not often visible.

You may remember, the first man who was tolling the bell of alarm was Mr Putin who came here in October 2000. When he was speaking in the Parliament, he said that terrorism was the most terrible and most dangerous threat facing our two countries and the world. Mind you, it was much before the 9/11 NY outrage! We like nobody else understand India’s high mission and sufferings from this – like Pathankot, but not only this, the examples are aplenty.

The Pioneer: Have you ever tried influencing Pakistan?

A.M.Kadakin: Yes, we have. We are trying even now, and our influence on Pakistan is aimed exactly at this. Especially in the situation which is prevailing now in the region – Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan. We want Pakistan to play a much more active role in actual fighting terrorism. That is why our contacts with Pakistan are not against any third countries but on the contrary – they will help to turn Pakistan on the right track.

Navbharat Times: There is concern regarding Russia evolving relations with Pakistan in defence sector.

A.M.Kadakin: There should be no worries. How can you compare the four Mi-17 helicopters we have sold to Pakistan with the 151 Mi-17 you have already received from Russia plus 200 Ka-226T, which you will be producing? It is laughing stock.

Well, for Russia, relations with Pakistan have an independent value in view of the developments in the region. At least, they cannot be worse than India’s relations with Pakistan. India is also trying to mend bridges of understanding, to have channels of communication and normalize relations with Pakistan. If Pakistan fights international terrorism, we shall be only helping India. We have common history: we have built a steel plant in Karachi, it has to be renovated. Why not our companies do it? It is not a matter of argument. But one thing you can be sure of: Russia will never do an inch of action to the detriment of our old strategic and privileged partner India.

The Pioneer: How about commercial deals with Afghanistan?

A.M.Kadakin: We gave the permission to India to supply some helicopters to the Afghan army, to raise its capacity in fighting terrorism. A very controversial and difficult process is going on in Afghanistan with a growing recognition of the role of Taliban, which is not to our taste. We should avoid double standards. Double standards lead to triple standards and trouble. Double standards mean dividing terrorists into the good and the ugly ones.

The same thing happens in Syria now. The Western alliance is insisting on some groups to be present at the international Syrian talks. But one of those groups, for example, meticulously organized explosions against the Russian Embassy in Damascus. The West says, they are not terrorists. I say they are pure terrorists and bandits because the attack was pre-planned. Double standards unfortunately are so typical of the Western countries.

The Pioneer: Are you thinking of increasing your influence in Afghanistan?

A.M.Kadakin: We have been helping home forces of Afghanistan, their police, we have been helping them in reconstruction of some projects, built with Soviet assistance. In some matters, we are acting together with India like in that sale of helicopters, which India supplied to them.

Navbharat Times: Ambassador, before 9/11 happened Russia and India had been collaborating to dethrone Taliban. Do you think kind of this cooperation can reemerge?

A.M.Kadakin: At that time the situation was a little bit different, and the Sher of Panjer valley Ahmed Shah Mahsood was there and the Northern alliance existed, and we supported it together with India.

Navbharat Times: Do you think that in present situation Iran, India and Russia can evolve trilateral cooperation?

A.M.Kadakin: I think it is not a bad idea for such like-minded countries, especially as regards our fight against Islamic State. The Pioneer: Has there been any impact of sanctions on the Russia-India relations?

A.M.Kadakin: No, there has not been any impact. Even more, Russia has opened its borders for Indian agricultural produce like cheese, buffalo meat, the export of Indian fruits is also growing, like tangerines and even mangoes. We highly value India’s readiness to help, though Russia has not fallen because of those sanctions. We are not going to die from hunger, let them understand, it was a shot in their own leg, they are harming themselves.

The Pioneer: Do you think the Cold War is over?

A.M.Kadakin: The problem is in the Cold War instincts and mentality, which are with the West. Look, they are also passing through difficult times – the problems Europe is facing with refugees and the problems within the EU. Border policy, immigration, terrorism – look, what terrible attack happened in Paris! In my view, Europe should behave more independently from America. US is far away, beyond the ocean. It does not have any impact on America, but Europe is suffering. As for the problems within the EU, there should be a stronger element of bilateralism in individual relationships with Russia. Many countries are opposed to those sanctions. That so-called “collective will” doesn’t meet their national interest. Even after the Paris attacks we have established direct links as regards fighting the terror, exchanging information, with Israel as well.

The Pioneer: And how are German-Russian relations?

A.M.Kadakin: Germany is now leading Europe in sanctions against us, but German industrialists are all against. There is a growing pressure on Chancellor Merkel because German economy is suffering great losses.

We are a self-sustained country. We can and will survive even if we completely close our borders and remain fully autonomous. But we do want to cooperate, exchange goods, like it is done in a civilized manner in today’s world.

We welcome the improvement of India’s relations with China. The better relations are the smoother will be our cooperation in the RIC format. Territorial disputes are a very long and arduous process. It took us about forty years to regularize our border with China. One needs great patience. That is why it is good that India and China have decided to put these territorial problems aside, in square brackets, and to deal with them separately from the general course of improving relations. One cannot expect magic, but we succeeded even after forty years, which is just a fleeting moment for our 1000-year old culture and 5000-year-long Chinese civilization. God bless India and China to resolve problems sooner.

New Delhi, February 9, 2016

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