QUESTION:What are the priorities in your country’s relations with India? What will be the main subjects for your talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?
PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: The strategic partnership between India and Russia marked its tenth anniversary this year. Today, we can rightfully call it a privileged partnership, as it is characterised by our close interaction in international affairs as well as by large-scale and multifaceted trade, economic, scientific, technological and humanitarian ties.
High technology is at the top of our agenda. An integrated programme of cooperation in the areas of science, technology and innovation for the period to 2020 will be signed during the visit. Major cooperation areas are energy, including nuclear energy, metallurgy, oil and gas production, transportation and outer space exploration. We have identified a number of long-term projects in these areas.
Cultural and humanitarian exchanges are important as well. A Festival of Indian Culture is scheduled to be held in Russia in 2011, while a Festival of Russian Culture in India will take place in 2012.
All the above subjects will be discussed with Prime Minister Singh.
QUESTION: Taking into account Russia’s current discussions with Pakistan and Tajikistan on possible ways of Afghan settlement, what do you think of their possible outcome? Will India play a part in addressing this issue? Will our deepening cooperation in combating terrorism make any sense in this regard?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: You probably mean the Quartet comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia and Tajikistan, which was formed at the initiative of Tajikistani President Emomali Rahmon in 2009.
At the second four-party summit in Sochi this August we decided to launch a mechanism for holding four-party interagency consultations in three sectors: those involving foreign ministers, foreign trade and counter-narcotics agencies. During the past four months, the Quartet has held meetings on all three thematic areas and reconfirmed its commitment to continuing cooperation.
We believe that this format is primarily an element of cooperation within the SCO, possibly involving other important regional players with India being undoubtedly one of them.
We expect that the four-party meetings will result in agreements on specific projects. The CASA-1000 project can be one of them; it provides for the construction of electricity transmission lines from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. This work should be expanded in the future, involving our SCO partners in the four-party format.
Building a gas pipeline connecting Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India also responds to the region's economic development needs. We are considering the possibility of Russia's participation in this project. In my opinion, this initiative fully corresponds with the spirit of the present times and the priorities of regional cooperation. Russian companies operating in pipelines construction have necessary expertise, logistical resources and highly skilled personnel to build this pipeline.
Settlement in Afghanistan is high on the agenda of the India-Russia Joint Working Group on Combating International Terrorism and the Joint Coordination Group of Security Councils of the two countries, which have recently held meetings in Moscow and New Delhi. These bodies regularly exchange information on Afghanistan and discuss issues such as combating terrorist threats, illicit drug trafficking and money laundering. Almost all security agencies of our states participate in these efforts.
Anti-terrorist cooperation with New Delhi is advancing at international forums as well. We appreciate India's support for Russia's draft of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which entered into force in July 2007. In turn, we are doing our best to promote a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism sponsored by India.
QUESTION: Will the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill adopted in India impede further Russian-Indian cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy? What are further plans for our cooperation in this area?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Nuclear energy cooperation is an important element of our relations.
Russia has an established reputation in this segment of India’s market. A solid legal framework for bilateral cooperation has been established. In particular, we are implementing the intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in construction of additional nuclear power plant units at Kudankulam site, as well as on construction of Russia-designed nuclear power plants at new sites which was signed in 2008.
As for civil liability for nuclear damage, it is regulated by Vienna Convention of 1963, and we seek to solve the relevant problems in a constructive way through negotiations with our Indian partners.
QUESTION: India and Russia have a plan to jointly launch a spacecraft to the moon. What progress has been achieved in that area of cooperation? When will the Chandrayaan-2 artificial lunar satellite reach the moon's orbit? And what are the areas where Russia, which has a great outer space experience, collaborates with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Our cooperation with India in exploration and peaceful uses of outer space has a long history. Suffice it to recall the first Indian astronaut Rakesh Sharma made his spaceflight as a crew member of Soyuz T-11 as early as 1984.
Our countries have come a long way since then. Today, India has its own space launch site and is able to launch artificial satellites all by itself. However, we continue to collaborate in this area. The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft project that you mentioned is carried out within the framework of the agreement between the ISRO and the Russian Federal Space Agency on joint lunar exploration. The parties have agreed recently to add an Indian mini moon rover to the spacecraft which is to be launched in 2013.
We continue to cooperate in the area of human space flights as well. As far as I know, the Indian side is particularly interested in the Russian components for life-support and thermal control systems to be used at Indian spacecraft.
As part of the agreement between the ISRO and the Russian Federal Space Agency on cooperation in solar physics, we launched last year the CORONAS-Photon spacecraft.
The exploration of outer space makes it possible not only to carry out important scientific research but also to implement commercially viable programmes. The latter include undoubtedly joint use of the Russia-designed GLONASS satellite navigation system. The matter to address is now to launch production of equipment for end-users, and for this purpose we intend to set up a joint venture with India.
QUESTION: Military and technical links between Russia and India are very important. Today, many Western countries seek to develop military and technical contacts with India. Do you think it will affect our bilateral cooperation?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Similar to Russia, India has been pursuing a multi-track foreign policy and has been maintaining ties with numerous countries, including military and technical ties. It is only natural that the Western producers of arms and military equipment are interested in cooperating with India as well. We treat this with serenity and pragmatism. We are ready to compete, the main point being that competition for contracts should be fair and in line with the rules.
In general, the military and technical cooperation between Russia and India has been developing steadily. Our long-term links in this sphere are maintained in strict conformity with the international obligations of both countries, they are transparent and aimed at ensuring India's defense capability without challenging the existing military and strategic balance in the South Asia region.
Cooperation between the armed forces is another important area. Our mutual interest in such cooperation was proved by the INDRA-2010 joint military exercise held between October 15 and 24, 2010 in the Indian state of Uttarakhand.
We have had a purely businesslike and substantive conversation. I would like to add that Russia cherishes its traditional friendship with India and we highly appreciate our cooperation record and clearly see possibilities for further expanding it.
My visit is scheduled to take place shortly before the New Year 2011, therefore I extend my sincere wishes of happiness and well-being to the readers of your newspaper, as well as to all people of India.
December 19, 2010, 21:30