Alexander Kadakin is a diplomat with a difference. Besides being a veteran, he has absorbed everything Indian during his long stint in this country, beginning as a young trainee and leading up to his appointment as Russia’s Ambassador
When he landed a job as a junior diplomat in the Russian embassy in New Delhi as a 20-something, Mr Alexander M Kadakin must not have imagined that the embassy would become his home for the next nearly four decades, with only a few intermissions, and that he would eventually head it as the Ambassador. During this period, he witnessed the glory of the Soviet era; saw the disintegration of the only superpower after the US before his eyes; and watched the creation of a new Russia, now much reduced in size and changed in shape but still formidable in geo-politics.
And yes, along the way he learnt Hindi, dared to hum quite a few classic Bollywood songs of the fifties rather effortlessly, and mastered the art of understanding the machinations of Lutyens’ Delhi. Mr Kadakin was the continuity in the midst of cataclysmic changes his country underwent.
With all this, it’s no surprise that he bats for India as much as he does for Russia. If millions of Indians sang “Sar pe lal topee rusee, phir bhi dil hai Hindustani”, his heart, which he proudly says is “half-Indian”, must have swelled with pride at the India-Russia hyphenation. Such is his affection that, during the annual Orthodox Christmas party at the Russian embassy in January, he dressed up in a sherwani and safaa.
Now, in his sixties, Mr Kadakin has seen it all and met every political person of importance in India, from Swaran Singh to Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi to Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Narendra Modi, striking deep bonds with many of them. His love for Hindi films saw him interact with, naturally, Raj Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor and other glittering personalities. All of this did not stop him from honing his diplomatic skills which, in the changing geo-political scenario, has ensured that the traditional India-Russia friendship remained on a firm footing.
“I came here on my first posting in August 1971 as a probationer. This is my fourth posting and the second as Ambassador. In between, I had four years of interludes in Nepal and Sweden. But all through, even when I was there, I was closely connected with India. When in Russia, I was interpreting into Hindi for any summit or visit by the leader of the country and was an advisor and an expert of the delegation”, Mr Kadakin smilingly says.
He has been a full rank Ambassador since 1994. This makes him one of the most senior Ambassadors in his circle. The first posting as an Ambassador to India was from 1999 to 2004, and the second one began in 2009. Here, he shares his views on India-Russia “bonding”, strategic partnership, and areas that need attention.
Bilateral relationship: Terming Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Moscow last year as “highly satisfying”, Mr Kadakin feels that quick decision-making ability of the Prime Minister deserves credit. “The results have exceeded all our expectations. The one-on-one meeting between Mr Modi and President Vladimir Putin showed good chemistry in the personal relationship. Both are precise gentlemen who do not waste time on idle talk, are practical and result-oriented.”
India-Russia strategic partnership: Away from public glare, a lot of movement is happening in civil nuclear, defence and strategic areas. In the civil nuclear sector, Russia is handling six plants in Kudankulam and will add six more in Andhra Pradesh. “We will now be setting up another six plants of the same capacity but of advanced version in Andhra Pradesh”, he informs. Comparing Russia’s civil nuclear cooperation with other countries, Mr Kadakin takes pride in saying that while not even a nail has been driven in any of the projects by other countries, Russia was moving fast in its projects. “Issues like nuclear liability, insurance or fuel tracking have not prevented Russia from going ahead on its civil nuclear projects”, he points out.
In the defence and security sector, Mr Kadakin mentions talks on the purchase of S-400 Russian missiles for Indian air defence, leasing another nuclear submarine from Russia, the sale of Kamov Ka 226 and Mi-35 helicopters, and service centres for the Sukhoi fleet in India. “We do not feel jealous when India acquires military hardware from other countries for its strategic needs. India is a superpower in the making and we have worked with the country in military, industry and scientific areas to see it as strong as it is today. Name a country which would rent a nuclear submarine to India; name another country which would refurbish and reconstruct an aircraft carrier for modern-day needs, he challenges.
India-Pakistan-Russia issue: On Russia’s decision to sell Russia four Mi-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan, Mr Kadakin says India’s needn’t worry. Russia will not take even “one millimetre or an inch of action” that is detrimental to its “old and strategic partnership” with India.
He adds, “Pakistan has conflicting forces. While the civilian side wants good relations with India, the ISI and the Pakistan Army do not want peaceful relations with India. Whenever talks are scheduled, there is a terror attack. It has become a pattern. Russia is working with Pakistan to prevent cross-border terror attacks on India. We have tried to influence Pakistan to check trans-border terrorism and have spent a lot of energy in this direction. We want Pakistan to play a more proactive role in fighting terrorism”, he states.
India-China: Russia is happy with India’s improved relations with China. “It took us 40 years to sort out our border issue with China. One needs a lot of patience with the Chinese. It is good that both India and China have decided not to allow territorial problems to come in the way and improve relations in other areas. We bless the talks”, Mr Kadakin happily remarks.