Nikolai Kudashev: US Sanctions Do Not Have a Significant Affect on the Russian-Indian Military-Technical Cooperation

Thursday, 19 July 2018 07:32

Russian Ambassador to India Nikolai Kudashev told RIA Novosti about the interaction between Moscow and New Delhi at the bilateral and international levels, cooperation in trade and energy, as well as the US attempts to force Russia out of the Indian arms market.

- You were officially appointed as the Ambassador to India a little less than a year ago. What is your assessment of the current state of Russian-Indian relations in general and what directions in your work do you intend to focus on in the future?

- Indeed, I arrived in India about a year ago, having replaced Alexander Kadakin, my great predecessor, who, unfortunately, untimely left us. India is really lucky to have had such outstanding people as Kadakin, Vyacheslav Trubnikov, Yuli Vorontsov as ambassadors to this country and many others who did their best to develop our bilateral relations as well as cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi on the international arena. My task is, of course, to continue their legacy, serve the interests of my motherland, cooperation of our two countries for the sake of peace, progress and prosperity.

Let me say a few words about the bilateral relations between Russia and India. These ties have a special, completely exceptional nature. This is the reason why they were elevated to the status of the special and privileged strategic partnership. Last year we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and India, but the history of our contacts stretches back to centuries.

A distinctive feature of bilateral cooperation are a special relationship of trust and the contacts between the leaders of the two countries – the President of Russian Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. Every year they hold four to five meetings – an uncommon practice in interstate ties – including the annual regular bilateral summit. The next summit is expected to be held in New Delhi in October this year. In addition, the practice of communication of our leaders was supplemented with a new format – informal summits. The first such summit was held recently in Sochi.

Of course, the dialogue at the highest level is not the only format of bilateral partnership. We have regular ministerial contacts – meetings between foreign ministers Sergey Lavrov and Sushma Swaraj, Russian-Indian intergovernmental commissions – on trade and economic cooperation as well as on military-technical cooperation. These two meetings are to be held in the coming months – in late summer and autumn. Of course, we maintain contacts through numerous specialized agencies and bilateral consultations mechanisms. I do not even list – there are too many. So we can safely say that the relations between our countries have a strong, time-tested and deeply echeloned character.

- What is the state of affairs in the cooperation of our countries on international platforms?

- Generally, our ties in the international sphere are characterized by the common positions on the key current issues such as the need to strengthen the central coordinating role of the United Nations in international affairs, strict compliance with international law, the commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation. By the way, as you may know, at the recent special session of the conference of the state parties to the CWC (Chemical Weapons Convention) India voted against the destructive British draft resolution. We are united by the rejection of unilateral sanctions, interest in the humanization of international economic order, and political settlement of crises, including Syria and Ukraine. 

Naturally, our common views are not confined to that. They are reiterated on such influential platforms, formats and organizations as BRICS, the SCO, RIC. Our colleagues and we believe that BRICS is primarily a new model of building intergovernmental relations. This is a vibrant, developing format. Our BRICS agenda is well-known: information security, energy, space exploration, economic empowerment of women, interregional consolidation within BRICS. On all these issues we feel understanding of our Indian colleagues and partners. With the direct support from Russia, India has recently joined the SCO, along with Pakistan. New Delhi is an active provider of regional security in Central Asia and its neighborhood. India participates in the SCO–Afghanistan Contact Group. RIC (Russia, India, China) is an equally promising format. It is characterized by its diversification of ties. Apart from high-level contacts, RIC is enriched with the working level dialogue on regional issues, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the contacts between young diplomats. 

Besides, India actively participates in the dialogue on building a new regional security architecture in Asia and in the Pacific. This dialogue takes place on various levels including Jakarta. We rest our great hopes upon this dialogue. Close cooperation between Russia and India within the aseanocentric mechanisms, such as ASEAN Dialogues, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the mechanism of East Asia Summit.

- You just mentioned the annual bilateral summit. Are the dates of the summit as well as of intergovernmental commissions’ meetings  known?  Could you also tell whether any bilateral agreements are to be signed?

- I would like to answer this way. Let me describe our bilateral relations in general, because it defines the agenda of the summit and the intergovernmental commissions’ meetings. As for the summit, as far as I know, it will be held in October. It would be improper for me to announce the date of the meeting before the relevant presidential agencies, as it is their prerogative. But this October has been confirmed as the time of the meeting. On the eve of the summit, in summer and early autumn, the two intergovernmental commissions are expected to meet.

As for our bilateral relations, they are progressing well. The political dialogue at the top, uppermost level as well as at the working level is being enriched with new forms. The bilateral trade is growing with its current annual turnover is currently around 10 billion USD. Is it a big or a small amount? Of course, it is not a small amount. But is it enough for the two strategical partners, two great and rapidly developing states? Of course, it is not enough. A practice confirms that the trade between our countries grows by 20% year-on-year. This year we’ll cross the 

10 billion USD mark. I believe that if the things are going the same way, and there are strong arguments to hope so, the bilateral exchange will cross the 30 billion USD mark.

Trade and investment cooperation develops in both traditional and new areas. When we talk about traditional, the nuclear power is the natural example. The Kudankulam project is progressing successfully. The Indian side confirmed its interest in carrying this positive collaborative experience further, and actively looks for the construction site for the next stage of our joint nuclear energy project. Our cooperation with India in the field of atomic energy crossed the frameworks of bilateral partnership and continues in third countries. The construction of a nuclear power plant in Ruppur, Bangladesh has started. This is a trilateral Russian-Indian-Bangladeshi project. It is a good, positive experience, a large and complex project, with a construction component and considerable potential for manufacturing localization.

Besides the nuclear energy, our relations in the area of oil and gas are progressing well. Russia has become a supplier of LNG to India. The Indian partners signed first contract with Gazprom. This is a 20-year contract, and if I am not mistaken, its volume exceeds 23 billion USD. This is a large contract and it takes into account the India’s growing energy demand. We can expect that this is just the beginning. Our cooperation in the oil sector is growing. It includes not only oil exports, but also the investment. As you know, our oil industry leader Rosneft is one of the largest investors in Indian oil sector. The acquisition of Essar Oil estimated at 13 billion USD is unprecedented for the Indian market. With participation of Rosneft a new joint company, Nayara, was incorporated, and it has big growth plans in India.

Let me say it straight, that India responds with mutual interest. It is a large investorin oil and gas projects in Sakhalin as well as in coal projects in the Far East. Indian companies and entrepreneurs take interest in energy resources of the Russian Arctic and, correspondingly, in the fate of Northeast Passage. It means that not only solidarity in political views, but also strengthening of bilateral trade and investment ties and, in a way, formation of a unified or common national economic tie up connects Russia with India. It is not without a reason that Russia paid an interest to the “Make in India” programme announced by the Modi government. Now we actively work to take part in those plans, 21 priority investment projects, be it in the area of petrochemistry, infrastructure or pharmaceuticals.

- Nowadays many people say that signing the free-trade agreement between India and the Eurasian Economic Union may contribute to intensifying trade and economic exchange between the Russian Federation and India. The “North-South” project, which is also associated with the idea of “green corridor” regime in customs regulation, has been a work in progress since long, but has not been brought about yet. Could you explain, what economic benefits, from your point of view, the free-trade agreement between India and the EAEU will bring and at what stage are the “South-North” and “green corridor” projects now?

- India is a great country of Asia. With an increasing interest it examines the initiative of the Russian President Putin to establish the Big Eurasian Partnership with the participation of the EAEU, the SCO countries as well as the ASEAN states. Obviously, the security interests, stable and predictable economic development of such a giant as India are unimaginable and impossible in isolation from the Eurasian area and its main actors, particularly Russia. It seems to me that the Government of India is becoming more convinced in this idea, though some of our geopolitical competitors suggest and whisper to India other options, which go against the evident reality. India’s interest to develop relations with the EAEC arises from its general interest in maintaining normal relations with the closest neighbours, promoting sustainable, progressive economic growth. We’ve already held the first round of negotiations. These were of a technical nature, i.e. concerning modalities of further negotiations. It is also very important. To understand each other, to obtain a result, we need to realize what we are talking about, how and in what format. The negotiations were successful, fruitful. To my mind, we should expect intensification of this negotiating process and a growing interest from Indian side because of both general demand for the idea of the Eurasian partnership as well as shrinking space for cooperation resulting from sanctions, which affect a number of other areas.

Naturally, to implement them we need to overcome connectivity deficit. “South-North” corridor is one of the priorities for both Russia and India. India makes great effort to develop this idea despite growing complications around Iran. I am sure that the prospect of the project is very bright because it is not an artificial, but is in demand by life and the millenniums of history of relations between our countries.

- Despite the fact that the Russia-India military-technical cooperation remains sufficiently strong, recently this cooperation has been criticized by the US up to the threats of sanctions introduction as for example in the situation when India is planning to purchase Russian S-400s. How do we assess this pressure, does it really exist, to what extent does it present a serious threat to the Russia-India military-technical cooperation and what do Indian partners say about it?

- First of all, I can’t say that the US attitude toward Indo-Soviet and Indo-Russian relations including the military-technical cooperation has ever been very friendly. The current situation is not an exception. A distinctive feature of the present time is the sanctions against Russian producers, which are a means of unfair competition and which are pursuing the goal of driving Russia out of the Indian defense sector and its military and political space. Our attitude to it is of course negative. We are ready for equitable, fair and open competition, but obviously it is not a competition, it is something opposite to competition. Does it influence our military-technical ties? Fundamentally not. We remain the closest partners, and all our defense industry agreements are being implemented. It concerns the purchase of S-400s and the joint production of Ka-226 helicopters, and many other projects. Do the sanctions create difficulties? Yes, they do, of a certain kind. However, frankly speaking, these difficulties are surmountable. We are searching for the solution of these problems and undoubtedly it will be found. 

- Lots can be said about Indo-Russian relations in the cultural-humanitarian sphere. What tracks of cooperation in this sphere are the most relevant today? In the last years we heard much about cinema, but what tracks do you consider the most dynamic? 

- Huge changes in Russian and Indian societies have led to the situation when segments of society, millions of people, that earlier did not participate in the development of bilateral relations, have become engaged in it. In connection with this the interest to get to know each other, to cultural and tourist exchanges is increasing. It is not increasing occasionally, it is acquiring the character of tradition, phenomenon. Recently last year in autumn India hosted the Russian cinema week. Already this year in autumn we are waiting for the repetition of this practice, the conducting of the next Russian cinema week in Delhi, Mumbai, maybe elsewhere – our cinematographers will determine the place. The success is great. Of course, we are waiting for Bollywood stars, for Indian cinema here in Moscow. This year approximately from September till December we will see the great Russian culture festival in India. It will be held in several places including Delhi. The festival will include instrumental music, dancing and other types of art. In general, the mutual sympathy and interest of the Russian and Indian peoples to each other is the practice rather than general words. This sympathy is time-tested and it is a power that strengthens our political, economic and other ties.

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