India-US deal long on promises but short on clarity: Russia

Thursday, 12 February 2015 08:14

In an exclusive interview to “The Hindu”, Russia’s Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin rejects the idea that Russia felt the competition from the U.S. following the nuclear agreement.

Calling the India-U.S. nuclear agreement a “breakthrough” is premature, says Russia’s Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin, who has called the announcements made during U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit “only promises with a dose of euphoria.”

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu, Mr. Kadakin rejected the idea that Russia felt the competition from the U.S. following the agreement, but said: “Russia today remains the only partner of India which is actually contributing to its peaceful nuclear programme.”

“It is too early to speak about ‘breakthroughs’ because of a lack of complete clarity, as not a single nail has been driven in any [American nuclear reactor] construction sites,” he said. “These are so far only commitments and promises, plus a dose of euphoria, which is not the best vehicle either in diplomacy or realpolitik.”

Mr. Kadakin’s responses, given in writing, to questions from The Hindu are significant as they indicate an unease in Moscow over closer ties between India and the U.S., especially in the nuclear sphere. In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that 12 new reactors will be built by Russia in India, in addition to the operational and under-construction “Kudankulam-series” reactors (KKNPP 1&2 and 3&4) in Tamil Nadu.

Last week, Russian officials released a statement alleging that the cost of power from the proposed U.S. reactors would be double that from Russian projects in India. “Our Indian friends are fully satisfied with Russian-designed reactors, which are said to be the best in quality, safety, eco-preservation and, what is more, cost of energy,” Mr. Kadakin said.

Mr. Kadakin slammed U.S. President Barack Obama for his criticism of Russia made during a media interaction along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on January 25, which the Ambassador said “violated the basics and age-old traditions of international diplomacy.”

To a question on Ukraine, Mr. Obama described Russia as a “bully” and vowed to “ratchet up the pressure” on Russia. He described Mr. Putin as being “hell-bent on military conflicts.”

Asked about the potential embarrassment to India over those comments being made on Indian soil, the then Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh had said: “India’s strategic partnership with Russia remains.”

Referring to Mr. Obama’s comments as “arrogance in full bloom,” Mr. Kadakin, a veteran diplomat in India, who is known for his colourful statements, said: “This behaviour of that country [U.S.] worldwide is notorious. No respect for international norms is shown.”

He appreciated India’s stand of calling for an inclusive dialogue in Ukraine, terming it “balanced and objective.”

Mr. Kadakin’s comments are an indicator of the tightrope walk ahead for the government after Mr. Obama’s January visit, which included an Indo-U.S. “declaration of friendship” and vision statement committing to a joint partnership in the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region. In an effort seen as seeking to balance the perceived “tilt” towards the U.S., Ms. Swaraj met the Foreign Ministers of Russia and China in Beijing at the end of January. Later this year, President Pranab Mukherjee and Mr. Modi are scheduled to visit Moscow separately to attend the anniversary of the World War victory parade and the annual bilateral summit, respectively.

Suhasini Haidar

“The Hindu”, February 12, 2015

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