Interview of Ambassador of India to the Russian Federation Mr. Pankaj Saran to leading Russian newspaper «Независимая газета» on April 9, 2018
Q 1. India and Russia call each other as privileged and strategic partners. But your press writes that New Delhi is getting closer with Washington and is moving away from Moscow. Is it so?
Answer: India does not move either away from anyone or towards anyone. The only direction in which India moves is forward. We did not fight for our independence to give up our right to independent decision making and being faithful to India’s unique civilisational history, identity and culture. Like any country in the world, India wants to develop friendly relations with other countries.
Having said this, the fact and reality is that India and Russia have a Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership since 2000. This has withstood the test of time. But more importantly, this partnership has become even more relevant today as the world is readjusting to the emergence of new powers. The partnership between India and Russia is a multi-dimensional one. It runs deep and is a fundamental pillar of India’s foreign policy. We have mutual trust and strategic convergence.
We do not develop relations with countries at the cost of our relations with other countries. India has and will always pursue an independent foreign policy.
Q 2. What do Indians think about aggravation of tensions between US, EU & Russia?
Answer: No one can be happy with the aggravation of tensions between Russian and the West. We hope that all sides will exercise their best judgment and work towards defusing tensions. There are many challenges facing the world today which require cooperation, joint action and a peaceful international environment.
Q 3. Stockholm Peace Institute informed that USA weapon supplies to India have increased by 557 % from 2013 to 2017. Were the Americans able to edge Russia out at the Indian arms market?
Answer: These are simplistic and often misleading figures, meant to catch newspaper headlines. I will not comment on their accuracy. We do not see our defence procurement in terms of competition between different countries. We make decisions on the basis of our national interest.
The fact is that today Russia is our largest defence partner. We have various ongoing projects and concrete plans for the future with Russia. Russia has, is, and will remain a special defence partner. We are in the process of transforming ourselves from a defence importer to a defence manufacturer, not just a market. We view Russia as a special and privileged partner in this process.
Q 4. How is India-Russia nuclear cooperation developing? Will France become Russia’s competitor after the signing of the agreement on construction of NPP in India with participation of France?
Answer: Russia is the only country which is building a nuclear power plant in India today. Nuclear energy is one of the most important and best examples of strategic cooperation between India and Russia. We are happy with our ongoing cooperation and the perspectives for further growth. We have an agreed Roadmap which rests on the twin pillars of serial construction and localisation, plus there are other areas and forms of cooperation, including partnerships in third countries.
As far as the role of other countries in India is concerned, we should see this in the context of the size of our economy, the scale of our energy needs, and the still small proportion of nuclear energy in our total energy mix. Our total installed generation capacity currently is 330 GW. India’s needs in the future are much higher. No single country or source of energy will be able to meet our requirements, but in any scenario Russia will be a major partner.
Q 5. How does India perceive “thaw” in relations between Russia and Pakistan?
Answer: Russia is within its rights to develop relations with all countries in the world. It is its sovereign right. We believe that Russia will not do anything that will harm its relations with India or the interests of India.
Q 6. Does the policy of New Delhi and Moscow on Afghanistan coincide? Does the presence US troops in this country help to restrain terrorists?
Answer: At a fundamental level, India and Russia have the same objectives in Afghanistan. We want to help the people and government of Afghanistan to build a safe, secure and stable society, to defeat the evil of terrorism and eradicate the threat from narcotics. Terrorism in all its forms must be eradicated. All countries should work towards this end, without double standards.
We work with Moscow in different platforms to achieve these goals, but finally the solution has to come from within Afghanistan, without external interference. India has a special relationship with Afghanistan which goes back centuries. The Afghans have always regarded India as a trusted friend and development partner.
Q 7. Russia-India annual trade turnover is only around US 9 billion dollars. What should be done to increase economic cooperation up to the level of close political ties between the leaders of our countries?
Answer: We have to work much harder to achieve the target of US$30 billion trade by 2025 set by our leaders. We have to involve all our Ministries, our business Chambers, especially medium and small enterprises, our regions, close the knowledge and information gap, address trade barriers, build better connectivity, identify each other’s priorities and exploit each other’s strengths. Based on this, we are embarked on a multi-prolonged strategy which is beginning to show results. Promotion of greater investments in each other’s countries is a critical aspect of this strategy. We have some significant successes in the energy sector.
Q 8. Indians learns about Russia mainly from the news of Western mass media, which are hostile towards Russia. Is there a possibility to change this?
Answer: I agree there is a deficit in information about Russia in India, as well as about India in Russia. Our peoples deserve the opportunity to learn about each other directly rather than through intermediaries or eyes of third countries, which leads to wrong perceptions. This is a longstanding problem. It is absolutely essential to change this situation. This requires commitment and hard work by both sides, which includes the mass media organizations. We are aware of the problem and are addressing it through different means. Newspapers like yours have an important role to play.