(IIC, New Delhi, February 13, 2016)
It gives me immense pleasure to be present here and be able to share views on the current state and prospects of relations between our two friendly nations. As Ambassador of Russia to India for the second time and as a diplomat who has spent more than 25 years of his professional career in the subcontinent, I am proud to say that India has always played a special role in Russia’s foreign policy, more so it has always occupied a privileged place in the hearts of people in my country.
Bilateral ties between Russia and India is a unique world phenomenon. Right from the dawn of India’s freedom our relations were on a steady uprise gradually evolving into what we now call special and privileged strategic partnership. It is a historic fact that diplomatic relations between our countries were established a few months before India became officially independent. Since then, nothing clouded Soviet-Indian and then Russian-Indian friendship.
The Declaration on Strategic Partnership of 2000 paved the way to a brand new quality of our interaction imparting a truly global dimension to the partnership of two leading world powers in the XXI century.
During the visit of President V.Putin to India in December 2014 the leaders emphasized that the time has come for a significant upgrade of bilateral cooperation to elevate the friendship between the countries to a new level. The Summit resulted in a historical joint statement “Druzhba-Dosti: a Vision for Strengthening the Indian-Russian Partnership over the Next Decade” – a roadmap that we will follow for the next decade.
The year of 2015 saw an unprecedented intensity of high level visits and contacts. In May President Pranab Mukherjee came to Moscow to participate in the 70th Anniversary of the Great Victory in the Patriotic War. Last July Prime Minister N.Modi visited Russia to take part in the BRICS and SCO summits. The end of the year was crowned by the traditional and very fruitful summit in Moscow, which brought about strategically important agreements in the fields of nuclear energy, oil and gas, and defence. The joint Russian-Indian statement “Through Relations of Trust to New Cooperation Horizons” set new ambitious goals for our mutual cooperation.
The absolute priority for us is the military and military-technical sphere. What is important is that today it stretches far beyond supplies of end products and includes technology transfer, joint research and development activities. The well known example is the joint venture BrahMos which designs and manufactures top notch missiles for the Indian Armed Forces. Highly promising projects of a multi-functional fighter aircraft and a multi-purpose transport aircraft are also well in progress.
Well established contacts between Russian and Indian militaries manifest themselves through regular joint land, naval and air exercises such as the recent INDRA exercises held in November-December 2015 in the Bay of Bengal and in Rajasthan.
Another crucial domain is cooperation in nuclear energy. The flagship NPP Kudankulam project is progressing extremely well. The first unit of the plant has been commissioned and is gaining capacity, feeding power into the national grid of India. The second unit is about to be put into operation by mid-year. Construction work on units 3&4 has commenced. Negotiations are underway on units 5&6. We welcome the long-pending decision of the Indian Government to assign the second plot for the construction of Russian power units in Andhra Pradesh. We are confident that implementation of these plans will enhance India’s energy security dramatically. All these practical steps go in line with the Strategic Vision of Russian-Indian Cooperation in Peaceful Nuclear Power Use of 2014 that sets the goal to jointly construct at least 12 power units over a period of 20 years.
We successfully cooperate in the oil and gas sector. The export volumes of Russian hydrocarbons to the Indian market are growing. The recently signed agreement between “Rosneft” and “Essar” envisages large-scale deliveries of oil and petroleum products to Indian refineries – up to 10 million tonnes a year over a period of 10 years. In 2015 “Gazprom” has delivered 5 consignments of liquefied natural gas to India. We are implementing major projects in energy generation in India.
It is important to mention our strategic cooperation in the diamond industry. Russia is the largest diamond producer in the world with 27% of global extraction, while India is the leader in cutting diamonds with 65% of the trade. Almost half of Russian feedstock is delivered to India. In 2015 “Alrosa” has increased the number of long-term contracts from 9 to 12. To expand cooperation, a special customs zone is being set up at the Mumbai diamond exchange.
There’s opportunities galore in other promising spheres, like aircraft building, engineering, automotive industry, metallurgy, pharmaceuticals, chemical industry and many others. Special emphasis is given to promotion of Russian investments in India through major infrastructure projects like Smart Cities and Transport Corridors, as well as in telecom, power and road construction. Much effort to take our cooperation forward is made by the Russian-Indian Intergovernmental Commission, which last met on October 20, 2015 in Moscow.
The need of the hour is to involve Russian businesses into India’s import replacement programme “Make in India”. We see this as an additional opportunity for joint ventures, technology transfer and production of high-value-added goods.
We have to admit that in 2015 our mutual trade showed negative dynamics. This was mainly caused by decline in energy prices and lower demand for machine building products due to unfavourable situation in global market and unstable exchange rate. However, we painstakingly work on improving our trade turnover. The aim is to reach US$30 billion bilateral trade turnover of goods and services by the year 2025. It is expected that the level of mutual investments by then will be over US$15 billion each way.
One of the promising ways to achieve these goals is development of interregional ties, which has become a matter of special attention from both sides. Strengthening of multifaceted cooperation between Russian regions and Indian states is viewed as a priority. Partnerships between Moscow and New Delhi, St.Petersburg and Mumbai, Kazan and Hyderabad, Astrakhan and Gujarat, Samara and Karnataka, just to name a few, constitute a solid basis for expanding economic cooperation.
Geographic distances are no longer a barrier when both partners are driven by mutual interest – the 7,200 km-long North-South International Transport Corridor will connect South and Central Asia, the Persian Gulf and Eastern Europe and help to increase the bilateral volume of trade. The importance of the corridor goes beyond the framework of goods movement as it has huge geo-strategic significance in the context of comprehensive regional connectivity assuring energy and economic security to entire Central Asia.
A big step forward has been made to facilitate B2B contacts via a more friendly visa regime. During the recent summit we signed the protocol on simplifying travel requirements for certain categories of citizens of our two countries. Businessmen can now visit Russia and India on direct invitations from their partners.
This year we are going to keep up the tradition of intense high level contacts. President V.Putin will visit India for the BRICS and bilateral summits. The festival of Russian culture in India this year is going to be just as memorable as Indian culture festival in Russia in 2015 and will be yet another important step in building bilateral humanitarian partnership.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the relationship between India and Russia has been time tested for durability and trustworthiness, which are their intrinsic value and an exemplary model for international relations. Only on this basis it is possible to ultimately bring happiness and prosperity to peoples of both countries.