Online conference of the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with representatives of the Indian public. March 12, 2010

Friday, 12 March 2010 00:00
Question: Mr Prime Minister, before we start taking questions from the audience, I would like to ask you about your current visit to India. The last time you visited India was three years ago, in 2007. At that time, you were President of the Russian Federation. And now you have returned as Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. What can you say about your plans and hopes for the future? What would you like to accomplish during this trip?

Vladimir Putin: Regardless of my office, when I come to India I always feel that India has been our strategic partner for many decades. Although this reflects the mutual sympathies of Russian and Indian nations, it primarily highlights our virtually coinciding geopolitical interests.

First, I always feel this way while visiting your friendly country.

Second, regardless of my office when I come to India, I have only one objective: to facilitate expanded inter-state relations and direct contacts between our nations.

This time, the main task is to build up on our achievements of the previous decades, going back to the Soviet period of Russian history. As we all know, a great deal was accomplished in the course of our joint work. The President of India and I have discussed this today.

In effect, the basis of India's economic growth, including the engineering sector and iron and steel enterprises, was created with Soviet assistance.

We have now attained entirely new levels and entered a new stage in our development. Today, you and I have an absolutely unique opportunity to exchange opinions and to discuss problems of expanded Russian-Indian relations in such an unusual format involving major Indian centres covering a large share of India's territory and involving many individuals who are interested in this event.

I am very grateful to the organisers, who have made today's event possible. I hope very much that our current discussion will enable us to chart key aspects of our current, short-term, mid-term and long-term cooperation, as well as expose problems requiring special attention on the part of Russian and Indian leadership.

Today, I will have a detailed conversation with India's Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. I am confident that if we identify issues that deserve attention here today, Dr Singh and I will address them.

I am very happy to have this opportunity and I would like to invite you to take part in the discussion. Thank you very much.

Host: Mr Prime Minister, we have a question from Mumbai, India's financial centre.

Question: Alok Tandon, an owner and managing director of Shyam Telecom. Mr. Prime Minister, I am honoured to welcome you to India. We are also honoured to partner with MTS, Russia's largest investment company. Your investments have been successful. We have successfully promoted the MTS brand in India. The ties between the two mobile operators have grown stronger over time.

Russia is traditionally renowned for its defence industry. Now we also know mobile operator MTS. Our experience with AFK Sistema suggests that further cooperation will be successful as well.

Mr. Prime Minister, this is the question I would like to ask. Does the Russian government plan to maintain and encourage Russian high-tech companies' expansion into India? I am referring to such companies as Nanotechnologies and Sitronics, which could raise our cooperation to new heights.

Vladimir Putin: You started by raising an issue that is fundamental. Until recently, our cooperation has been limited to traditional spheres and our mutual trade to traditional products. We traded with each other.

Incidentally, even the global financial and economic crisis has not had a negative effect on the trade and economic relations between the two countries. Moreover, despite the global economic downturn, which also affected Russia's economy, trade between our two countries grew by 7.5%.

However, my Indian partners, colleagues, and I think this is not enough. We need to think about the future and increase high-tech cooperation. This is fully in line with our plans for Russia's economic development.

One of our key goals is to diversify the economy and emphasize innovation as it develops.

We have the tools needed, including the financial tools, to resolve these problems. The political will is there in both Russia and India. But we certainly need the support of leading industrial and investment companies on both sides.

We are glad your company has found a partner in Russia. I have every expectation that this partnership will continue.

Moreover, the Russian government is planning to support this cooperation directly if need be, and financially if necessary. We are ready to invest the necessary resources to deepen our interaction and support the joint company.

MTS has indeed been successful in India, which is largely due to your cooperation and the Indian government's support. I am confident that this trend will continue. I could add in this respect that today high-tech cooperation is a priority in our cooperation.

Russian-Indian military technical cooperation has been already mentioned; it also involves high technology. It is also more than trade; rather, it is cooperation in high-tech sectors which is bound to be expanded to civilian industries.

I can also tell you that India and Russia are cooperating in science and education. Hundreds of research centres and labs are collaborating.

Our space cooperation is not limited to orbiting Indian satellites. We are currently looking at the possibility of cooperating on a global positioning project (known internationally by the American acronym, GPS). We have a similar system, GLONASS. Global positioning solutions are essential for defence companies in developing high precision weapons. Therefore, economies using such technologies enjoy uncontested priority in distribution and investment resources.

Let me cite an example: Russian regions that are using a global positioning system registered a 20%-25% cut in fuel and lubricant consumption. The devices installed on municipal transport, ambulances and other vehicles report a vehicle's location in real time. Knowing that, their drivers refrain from using the vehicles for purposes other than their assignment; this led to a 25% cut in petrol consumption.

This is but one small example of boosting security and safety of special cargo transportation. It is very important to know the exact location of each vehicle carrying such cargo.

These positioning systems have diverse uses and are very effective. This is only one example to show you the future prospects this work has.

I will conclude my answer to your question by saying that we certainly will continue supporting this important project.

Host: Mr Prime Minister, let us now hear from Bangalore, India's information capital and an important centre for other countries as well. Hello Bangalore, do you have a question to the Prime Minister?

Remark: Yes we do. We have Hanuman Sharma here, CFO at Kamaz Vectra joint software venture.

Question: Good afternoon Mr Prime Minster, welcome to India. My question is, what your plans are about easing the visa issuing process for business leaders in both countries, since this is a very important factor in trade growth. Thank you very much.

Remark: This is a much discussed issue; similar questions were also asked in 2007. The issue is ever present on both leaders' agendas, but there has been no progress so far. What is your view of the situation?

Vladimir Putin: You are right. The moment I heard this question it occurred to me that we discussed this problem during my last visit in 2007. I must say that we have made progress on similar problems with other partners.

The visa regime has certainly been liberalised, at least for specific population groups including students, athletes, journalists, and politicians (not just national level politicians, but municipal and regional officials as well). The same holds true for business leaders.

Such issues are always resolved on a reciprocal basis. With our Indian friends, we are ready to move forward, beyond the current level of cooperation Russia has reached with other partners in this area.

Let me tell you what the problem is. We do not live in a vacuum. When we handle similar issues with our other partners, for example European countries, we sit down together and develop certain rules. Namely, we had to sign a readmission agreement with the European Union. They agreed to deport illegal immigrants to Russia, including non-Russian nationals that penetrate into the EU from Russia.

Now suppose that some of these illegal immigrants, who came to the EU through Russia, are Indians; according to the agreement, we have to take them to Russia. But then we need to deport them to India. They are unlikely to want to stay in Russia, as it is not their desired destination. So, what are we to do with them?

I am putting this bluntly now, not politely or diplomatically. We will have to resolve this problem with our Indian partners.

I believe we can do it. We are engaged in ongoing dialogue. This will not be an easy solution to find, as India has not had similar experience with other countries. This is something we take into consideration.

This only looks easy at first glance, but in fact will entail a range of serious consequences: who will finance what, how the transportation expenses should be handled, where these people should stay in the meantime, how to arrange medical services, and so on. There is a host of problems. We certainly want to straighten out this "Gordian Knot" as soon as possible. We will continue to work on it.

Host: Mr Prime Minister, now on to Kolkata, in eastern India. We have a question from a Kolkata University professor.

Question: My question to Mr Prime Minister is as follows. Over time, relations between our two countries diversified in various fields such as trade and defence, and have recently reached considerable levels.

But against the background of these positive achievements we can see a rollback in education. My question is this: Can the government of one of our countries come up with new initiatives to expand this cooperation?

Actually, it looks as though the numbers of Indian students studying in Russia have fallen. And very few students from Russia come to study in India. Do you think it is necessary to deepen cooperation, promote exchange programmes and encourage people to study Russian?

Vladimir Putin: I think it is a very important issue. Indeed, ties in education, culture and science between India and Russia have long traditions. And they have brought very good results.

I agree with you that we are seeing a quantitative drop in the extent of our cooperation, and that we should do something about it.

What is more, as I said at the beginning: if some issues requiring special attention from the Russian government or the Indian government come up, I promise that my colleague Dr Singh, the Prime Minister of India, and I will discuss these problems today without fail. I think this is one of such problems, and it will also be at the focus of our discussion.

There are some practical difficulties that we must overcome. To begin with, I would like to say that cooperation is still continuing. Today about 4,000 Indian students pursue their degrees at Russian universities or colleges. But that is not enough. Let me tell you about one major problem we need to solve.

This problem, strange as it may seem, is non-recognition by India of degrees issued by Russian institutions of higher learning and Russia's non-recognition of Indian ones. It is a technical administrative issue. I am sure we will be able to resolve it, especially since we have overcome this difficulty with many countries, for example, the European Union. We could and should have done that with our Indian friends long ago.

This is an administrative issue and Dr Singh and I will discuss it today. In general, our relations are diversifying in this area and our cooperation is expanding. This is particularly true of those institutions that are in demand today and whose projects are being implemented. This is a positive process. If we support it with the timely training of personnel on both sides, then the work will be put on a proper and strong foundation.

Thank you very much for your question.

Host: And now back to Bangalore. Anita, you seem to have a question for the Prime Minister. You can ask it now.

Question: (head of the PR department at the Indian Space Research Organisation): Good afternoon, Mr Putin. As you know, India and Russia have had a long a successful partnership in space exploration. Do you think there are ways to extend this cooperation?

Vladimir Putin: I have already mentioned that our countries began working together in this sphere a long time ago, and now our colleague has raised the issue again. It's true; we have been working together successfully for a long time now, and our cooperation is not limited to Russian carrier rockets sending Indian satellites into orbit.

We have reached an agreement on implementing one of our ambitious joint projects - sending an Indian astronaut on a manned mission. We will start implementing this project in the near future, if work hasn't begun already.

However, we should not stop there. We must define priorities in our joint efforts in space exploration. A moon exploration project could be one such priority.

Russia has adopted a space exploration programme for the next 15-25 years, because all of these programmes, which are very expensive, require well-timed financial planning. I would like for the programmes of our leading company in space exploration, Roscosmos, to be coordinated as closely as possible with our strategic partners, who have equally ambitious goals in the sphere of space exploration.

I have mentioned the Global Space Positioning System. I think this is the next joint project we should begin working on. Being a professional, you certainly know that the point at issue is the precision of the signal, which is of fundamental importance to the Ministry of Defence as well as the national economy and the economies of other countries.

Another area where we could work together in is remote sensing of the Earth. This is an extremely important project for the environment, mining and the rational use of our mineral resources. In this context, our joint moon project is no less important, and I sincerely hope that our professionals working on it will find joint solutions to common problems.

Question: Several nuclear power plants were built in India during the Soviet period. You also have the opportunity to bid for licences to build other nuclear power plants. However, Indians have concerns about the safety of nuclear power. Russia had the horrible accident at Chernobyl and probably needs to enhance safety standards now. What are your views on these problems, primarily the safety issue? Another issue is that India needs to compete against business players in the United States and France. What are your views on the situation as a whole?

Vladimir Putin: Joint projects involving the peaceful use of nuclear energy are one of the most important and promising areas of cooperation between our countries. You mentioned Russia's tragic experience at Chernobyl. I'd like to remind you that it did not happen in modern Russia but in the Soviet Union; moreover, the plant was located in Ukraine. However, it is a common problem and a common tragedy. And it led to the development of technology to improve nuclear safety.

As for modern Russian reactors, let me say first that we are building new reactors of this type in Russia and we have a large national programme for developing nuclear power generation. During the Soviet period, we built some 30 large nuclear reactors. Our immediate plans call for 28 new reactors, which is almost as many as were built during the entire Soviet period. Safety is our primary concern when using this modern technology at home in the Russian Federation.

According to the latest assessments by the IAEA, Russian nuclear reactors are considered the safest in the world. Professionals know that. Our reactors now have double halls and special knowledge-based and industrial safety mechanisms.

Unlike all other reactors made in the world, our reactors can withstand a direct strike by a medium-haul aircraft weighing several tons.

I have mentioned the purely technological safety mechanisms apart from physical safety systems. But I'd like to say one more thing: our cooperation with our Indian partners is comprehensive. It involves research, construction, nuclear fuel supply, which India needs, and also the utilisation of nuclear fuel waste. The latter issue is one of the most important safety issues. Russian nuclear engineering companies offer this service to our partners.

Moreover, we are working in close cooperation with partners from other countries, primarily European countries.

I can tell you that when we win bids abroad, for example in India or China, or in any other country, we turn over 15%-20% of the contracts to our European partners. Our relations with some of them can be described as strategic.

So, whether we are working in Russia or with foreign partners, we always proceed from the belief that the consumer must get the best, most globally competitive product at affordable prices, and that we must also ensure the safety of nuclear reactors, which is the key issue.

Besides, these projects are economically sound. Modern reactors have a 50-year life span, which is a major advantage in light of fluctuating global prices for hydrocarbons. Nuclear power is cheaper.

If you look at the entire range of safety and environmental issues, many people think - and I have to agree with them - that nuclear power is the most environmentally friendly type of energy.

In terms of price, nuclear power is comparable to hydroelectric power. But hydroelectric power generation involves building dams and flooding huge territories, which destroys vast areas of farmland and affects the people living there.

As for thermal power plants, they burn coal, gas and fuel oil, which pollute the environment. Their effect on the environment is much larger than the effect of nuclear power.

I believe that nuclear power is one of the most promising areas of cooperation with India.

Host: We'll see. Perhaps solar energy could take the upper hand in thirty years. But for now we will focus on this sphere of power generation.

Moving on to Mumbai, where one of the esteemed representatives has a question. You are free to ask it.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, opportunities for bilateral trade are clearly growing. However, the same cannot be said for the banking sector.

My question is, could we think of ways to expand and deepen relations between our banking sectors with respect to opening lines of credit and financing loans?

Banking is considered a weak spot by exporters. The banks themselves are not yet doing as well as we would like in Russia. Perhaps something should be done to liberalise the banking sector.

Vladimir Putin: I think this sector of the Russian economy is sufficiently liberalised. Major global financial institutions operate in Russia. They account for a considerable share of Russia's banking and financial sector.

I do not know of a single major international financial institution that is not represented in Russia to some extent. They operate successfully in our country for the most part.

Moreover, hardly anyone knows this, but I can tell you that ... In the conditions of a global financial and economic crisis which, as is known, was not caused by India or Russia but spread from other countries ... Nevertheless, we were forced to consider this factor and to deal with it.

When we moved to stabilise the banking sector, we provided substantial support to it using resources of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation and other government resources.

When these measures were implemented, they covered all banking institutions operating in Russia, including those with foreign involvement and capital.

I think it would be appropriate to note that in other countries, not all government support for the financial sector applied to foreign banks. But this is precisely what we did.

Our banking laws are rather liberal. Unlike some major world economies, we have completely liberalised our currency market, facilitating the free flow of capital into and out of our country. We did not restrict capital exports in the face of the financial crisis. Unfortunately, some foreign financial institutions operating in Russia facilitated the outflow of capital from Russia during this time.

On the whole, they have all behaved in an extremely responsible manner during the crisis. As a result, there is no need for us to make any serious financial claims against them.

They acted in market conditions and in the conditions that had taken shape at the peak of the crisis. However, on one point I am in complete agreement: there is not enough banking support to expand trade and economic ties between India and Russia. And our leading financial institutions are not actively facilitating business projects.

But I am pleased to hear that initial steps are being taken in this direction. Major Indian banks are beginning to operate in Russia and vice versa. For instance, Vneshtorgbank has already opened an office, which has now been reorganised as a commercial organisation. The Russian Federation's Vnesheconombank is finding partners. The financial institutions of both countries are signing the necessary documents that can be considered the basis or legal foundation of joint work in this field.

I have no doubts that the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of India will support this process in every possible way. I completely agree that this process needs to be supported and intensified. While this has been lacking so far, we will prioritise this issue in the near future.

Host: A whole group of businessmen has gathered in Kolkata. Let's switch over to Kolkata. If I am not mistaken, a businessman there would like to ask Prime Minister a question.

Question: Good afternoon, esteemed Mr Prime Minister. My name is Hasmukh Shah, and I represent the PREMIER TEA company. I would like to express my admiration for your style of work and the wonderful team of professionals that you lead. You have put the Russian Federation on the path toward growth and development.

Here is my question: Do you encourage Indian investment in Russia? If so, then how would you react to news that Indian exporters face problems at the lowest level of the process? For instance, tea samples do not reach customers and are often impounded at customs houses. When even teas samples are confiscated, we are dealing with extremely tough customs-clearance proceedings. Mr Prime Minister, how can this problem be solved?

Vladimir Putin: You have just cited a specific example. Naturally, I have to know the details of your business and trade operations and that specific problem your company has run up against in order to be able to give a detailed answer.

But I can promise you now that we will certainly address this. I have written down what you have just said. We will try to find out what, in fact, is going on.

But it is common knowledge that administrative problems, including customs-clearance problems, arise in many countries. Russia is no exception here, and we realise that the problem is fairly widespread.

Here is what we believe should be done in order to reduce the problems involving Indian tea and other products arriving from India and other countries, our traditional partners.

First, we plan to relocate customs-clearance facilities from central Russia to the state border. This is an extensive programme requiring considerable financial resources and some time to implement.

Most importantly, we must introduce new modern methods for transferring goods across the state border and onto the Russian Federation's customs territory. These primarily technical methods will limit the opportunities for individual officials to make illegal decisions. Instead, a considerable volume of work will be handled by technical equipment that border officials will merely operate.

Speaking of regulations, they should also probably be modified. But all of Russia's partners must know current regulations and strictly adhere to them.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, if I am not mistaken, you are an avid tea drinker. Do you prefer green or black tea? You probably drink Indian tea, for the most part.

Vladimir Putin: Tea parties were actually a tradition in my family. We mostly drank tea and virtually no coffee. It was a special privilege to brew Indian tea.

Host: I‘m sure that tea exporters were pleased to hear that.

So, Mumbai, one of your guests has an important question on business and investment.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, allow me to welcome you heartily. I have worked with Russian companies since 1958. Our company, SUN Group, has invested heavily in food products, beverages, oil, gas and mining over the past 17 years.

We are also proud to have been involved in the establishment of the Skolkovo School of Management.

I am very grateful to you for awarding me the Order of Friendship during the Indian prime minister's visit to Russia in December. It is a great honour for me.

And so, my question is: how we can help to strengthen economic ties between India and Russia? In the past 17 years, we have been able to establish several successful businesses, which in turn have allowed us to resume our investment in Russia. However, we suffered some setbacks, as did other partners. But I am grateful to the Russian government for its assistance in resolving these issues.

The Western media focus predominantly on negative stories from Russia, oftentimes ignoring its successes. The Russian Federation is not very well understood in the West. It is often misunderstood.

Mr Prime Minister, I wonder how we can strengthen the trust of those Indian businesspeople who are eager to invest in the Russian Federation, but have concerns and doubt that they will receive proper support from the government, should any problems arise.

Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to greet our old friend, who knows Russia well, has worked with Russian companies for many years and has quite a presence in the Russian market. I would also like to express my gratitude for his direct involvement in the establishment of the Skolkovo School of Management. Incidentally, to the best of my knowledge this project is well underway and holds great promise. But I digress.

As for the issue you brought up about the Western media, which oftentimes try to portray Russia in a negative light: first, I believe that the Indian media do not always cover certain events exactly as you would like.

Second, even though some media portray a negative image of Russia, many global companies have extensive operations in Russia. Nevertheless, it seems to be that the philosophy and main goal of the media is to criticise those in power. And actually, this is as it should be. Because those in power must feel as if they are under a magnifying glass, so to speak, in constant view of the public and the media.

But let me repeat: many global companies are represented in Russia and have extensive operations there.

I haven't heard of any international company going bankrupt or losing its trust in the Russian market. Naturally, issues and problems arise constantly. Where there is work, there are problems. Only when nothing is going on are there no problems.

Your example also proves this point. You said that you have worked in Russia since the 1960s and you are not planning on leaving now, despite negative coverage by the media.

One must separate the wheat from the chaff. Perhaps some are writing with the express intention of fostering uncivilised competition. Conversely, some may seek to frighten off certain businesses to create conditions for other companies to take root in the market. There may be several different reasons. But I am confident that businesspeople base their plans not only on what they see and hear in the media, but also on business practice and reality.

Let me repeat: the reality is that all international brands are represented in Russia, and global companies operate here. None of our main partners quit the Russian market even during the global recession.

Moreover, overall capital flow was positive in 2009, despite the speculative capital outflow in the first six months. It is also a testimony to our partners' eagerness to work in Russia. I am sure they will continue working here.

As for incentives, there are specific national regulations affecting every area in which we work together. We do not put up any barriers for our international partners. We understand that the international companies that enter our market need special attention. To put it bluntly, without any pretence, they have far fewer connections in administrative bodies and do not understand the facts on the ground and Russian law as well. So business is more difficult for them, and they need special support.

As the prime minister, I am in constant contact with all our major partners through the meetings of the Government Commission on Monitoring Foreign Investment. The latest meeting took place not long ago.

And of course, we will continue our efforts to improve legislation designed to address this issue. We will continue to do so in order to attract international investment and international partners to the Russian economy.
Question: How can India and Russia cooperate on Afghanistan related matters? How can Pakistan be influenced in order to stop terrorism that is directed partly at India?

Vladimir Putin: You know, we are not alone in being concerned about Afghanistan. Afghanistan and the situation in Afghanistan is a cause for concern to the whole region and, without exaggeration, the entire international community.

Afghanistan is in the immediate proximity of our borders. And of course everything that happens there has an effect on the security of both our countries, India and Russia. We are aware that to this day part of Afghanistan's territory is used to train terrorists. We witness their activity today.

We are worried about what is happening on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We are aware of the concerns of the Indian Government over what is happening in the relations with Pakistan and about the terrorist activities of some groups.

I would like to be objective. I believe that we should not ignore the efforts the Government of Pakistan has exerted in recent months to step up the struggle against these groups in territory where Pakistani soldiers have not set foot for a long time.

We are aware that the Government of Pakistan has decided to launch direct military operations in some of its provinces, where nothing like this has ever happened before. But we very much hope that the leadership of Pakistan will not confine itself to solving local problems s and will think about how to resolve global issues.

Of course, that has to be viewed against the current leadership's real potential. But I repeat, they should be supported in the real steps they are taking in the fight against terror.

At the same time Russia and India certainly are worried by everything related to terrorist activity. In that respect Russia and India are undoubtedly strategic partners.

The Prime Minister and I will certainly discuss this problem today. To date our cooperation in this area has been highly successful. I have not the slightest doubt that given our shared interests, and they are identical in this matter, this work will be continued.

Host: You were probably pleased to know that there is a group of listeners of The Voice of Russia. They have many questions for you. Let us call Kolkata now. There should be two or maybe even more representatives there. Let us have at least two questions from that group of Voice of Russia listeners.

Question: My name is Papiya Mukerjee and I always listen to The Voice of Russia. I listen to it on the new frequency as well. We would like to get more information about Russia in India's main foreign languages, for example, in Bengali, a language spoken by four billion people. We would also like to get more information in India's local languages. It would give us a chance to learn more about Russia.

We conduct listeners' surveys. We know for example that Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. We would like to know more about that. Especially young people who also listen to The Voice of Russia.

Vladimir Putin: First of all, I am really pleased that there are enthusiastic listeners in India who follow events in our country and that broadcasts by The Voice of Russia are in demand here.

It is true that in the Soviet era our media, The Voice of Russia, broadcast to India in practically all its main languages. Today there are broadcasts in only two languages. That is true and it saddens me.

However, there are also positive trends: broadcasting is expanding thanks to the use of modern means of communication. It is expanding through the use of cutting-edge technology and due to the move to broadcasting in other languages that are indigenous to your country.

For example, the MTS company uses new technology to transmit information from Russia in real time and broadcast television pictures to mobile phones. I think one should take advantage of this. Business conditions prompt the company to adopt the different languages of people in various regions of India if it is to expand its potential in your country, to attract and increase the number of subscribers.

But that is not enough, of course. Efforts must be made at government level and we will think about it.

Moderator: Now over to Bangalore. One of our guests seems to have a question.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, I know that you like Indian culture and philosophy. I remember you commenting on Mahatma Gandhi's attitude to democracy. In one of your speeches you mentioned that Mahatma Gandhi had some influence on your life. Is that really the case?

Vladimir Putin: I do not remember the exact context in which it was said and why. I said it spontaneously because it occurred to me at the time. Why do some things and not others occur to you? In a normal informal talk something else might have occurred to me. But it occurred because we in Russia understand Indian philosophical thought and hold it in very high regard.

Incidentally, we have just published a two-volume history of Indian philosophy. It is very popular and is thought to be one of the best books on the subject published in Russian.

Now, regarding this attitude to the Indian culture, Indian philosophical thought and why it immediately comes to mind. This is firstly because they are well known in Russia, they are respected and fill a real need.

What exactly is it that people want? A comprehensive approach to the study of life and an analysis of it. It is no great revelation if I say that Indian philosophical thought emphasizes the need to look at all aspects of life in their interconnection. One thing flows from another and everything is interconnected in one way or another.
This means, for example, that in the international arena, if we are guided by such considerations and ideas, we will have to take fully into account not only our own interests, but also the interests of our partners, realizing that everything is interconnected and that one should proceed carefully.

A positive result will be achieved only if the interests of the majority of the participants in such a process are taken into account.

I don't think those who have recourse to various uncivilized methods of competition, for example, in the world economic markets or who pursue their immediate goals in the political sphere using terrorist methods or arms are acting in this way. That is an extreme measure. I am not sure that today, internationally we have a sound understanding of this.

I think that, in seeking to build relations among nations in as harmonious way as possible, we would find it very useful to go back to the origins of human thought, and Indian philosophy is of course one of its foundations.

Host: Mr Prime Minister, a lot of people want to ask questions. But we have only a short time. With your permission, they could e-mail these questions to you. So get ready for a barrage of questions.
And with that I would like to thank you for your time in what is a new format for India. We have never done this before.

Vladimir Putin: I would also like to thank our listeners. I would like to thank you for your help because the way you have conducted this meeting and the way the questions were couched and so on has been very helpful and supportive. I am very grateful to you for that.

I am also grateful to our interlocutors from three of the largest cities in India. This is indeed a unique format. It has never been used before. It broadens our opportunity to understand each other better and build our relations in the near future.

Of course, today we have been speaking above all about cooperation in the economic, financial, social and cultural spheres. I would like to say again that Russia has been and remains the most reliable and the closest friend of the Indian people.

Yes, turbulent processes are underway in the world economy and they have affected us. At the same time, concluding our conversation, I would like to say first and foremost to all the business people out there, and this is something they are well aware of: despite all the difficulties, the Russian economy has suffered less than we had expected and our measures to combat the crisis have proved effective.

We have positive results in international trade with our main partners. We have a surplus of more than $100 billion. Our gold and currency reserves are growing again and have reached almost $450 billion. Since the second half of last year we have seen slow but steady growth of our economy. This year we expect to have 3% growth of the economy.

Conditions for our cooperation are already good, and I am sure will improve further. We will find ever new spheres of interaction. And given such benevolent and, without exaggeration, friendly attitudes towards each other we will certainly be able to achieve great success.

Thank you all very much.
* * *

Vladimir Putin: Are there any other questions apart from those asked during the online conference?

Remark: India is becoming a global centre of innovation, car making, pharmaceuticals production, and biotechnology.

Many American and European companies want a foothold here, so they can take advantage of local resources in science, engineering, and technology, to build up the potential for their own markets. We are also interested in having similar relations with Russian industries. We have a vast potential for valuable joint creations.

Vladimir Putin: You know, there is progress in general. Direct contacts are being made under our programme... We have a science and technology cooperation programme involving about 400 research centres and labs in Russia and India.

But of course, it would be great if we could move some projects out of the pure research sphere and into the commercial arena.

Question: Could you appoint someone to take care of that? Someone we could deal with directly on the kind of science and research issues we are talking about?

Vladimir Putin: That position already exists. I am referring to my deputy who also heads the government office and the Intergovernmental Commission - Mr Sobyanin. He is the one to coordinate the work or find a required professional for a specific project.

Remark: Thank you.

Question: What about the banking sector? The sector requires investment; this would increase trade.

Vladimir Putin: You know, the practical financial interests of the participants are certainly the priority here. If you encounter particular limitations that raise any special concerns, please tell me.

I have just said during the online conference with our partners in three cities that our laws are liberal. And all the global financial institutions are represented [in Russia].

If you encounter any problems... There is the option of establishing ventures in which you own 100% or joint ventures with our participation. I know that some agreements have already been signed. The doors are open to you.

Question: We would like to know more about privatization in your country. It seems to be a priority with you... We would like to know more about this. We do not have a very clear idea of the situation.

Vladimir Putin: You know, huge investments have been recently made in Russia's energy sector. We established major concerns in the energy sector. Each one is bringing together the largest power plants and energy networks in the various regions. We organised open bidding. The world's largest players: Italian, German and Finnish utility companies became shareholders in these companies. Indian companies could have participated as well. This is just one example.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, I have a question on IT and outsourcing. If you consider Russia's future, you might find it interesting to look at the role of IT-industry in India: that industry has in fact turned the country into a major global player. This business annually yields around $60 billion to India. By 2020, these earnings might reach $175 billion or even $200 billion. The industry currently employs 45,000 Indians.

Could Russia use this potential to make its own companies more competitive? Russia has excellent intellectual resources in engineering, science and innovation. Russia's high standards combined with India's would create a huge potential which could be of interest for both countries.

Vladimir Putin: You don't need to persuade me. This is also one of our priorities. Moreover, in Russia, this sector is even more liberalised than in India. If you come to Russia, you could open a 100% Indian venture and take part in privatisation. In India there are certain restrictions: our companies that have 100% Russian capital are not allowed to operate in certain sectors here. There is a requirement that they should have at least 25% Indian capital. We do not have any such restrictions.
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