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19/02/2003-Relations between Delhi and Moscow are solid and substantial

Vremya Novostie Interview

Today Mr. Yashwant Sinha, the head of Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who also heads Indian Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic, Scientific and Technological cooperation is coming to Russian capital. On the eve of the visit Mr. Yashwant Sinha told the newspaper “Vremya Novoastie” observer Alexander Lomanov about problems and prospects of bilateral cooperation.

Vremya Novostie Interview

Today Mr. Yashwant Sinha, the head of Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who also heads Indian Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic, Scientific and Technological cooperation is coming to Russian capital. On the eve of the visit Mr. Yashwant Sinha told the newspaper “Vremya Novoastie” observer Alexander Lomanov about problems and prospects of bilateral cooperation.

1. In December 2002 President Putin paid a state visit to India. How do you assess its outcomes? Which topics in India-Russia bilateral relations are most important now?

President Putin’s successful visit to India, a milestone in our relations, further elevated our strategic partnership to an even higher and qualitatively new level. His meetings with the entire Indian leadership were marked by special warmth, characteristic of our relations based on goodwill, trust and mutually beneficial cooperation. The visit reconfirmed that our relations are characterized by remarkable stability and continuity. We have a sound and substantive relationship, which is dynamic and forward- looking. This is exemplified by the fact that our relations are practically problem free; we have consultations on a wide spectrum of issues and our cooperation is multifaceted. My current visit to Russia is with the objective of maintaining the momentum in our relations and discuss with the Russian leadership the implementation of key decisions taken during the Summit. Our Prime Minister’s visit to St. Petersburg for the 300th anniversary celebrations of that city and further high-level contacts are being planned. We look forward to achievements in our relations commensurate with high expectations on both sides.

The documents signed – Delhi Declaration on Consolidating Strategic Partnership, Joint Economic Declaration, Joint Statement and MOU on Combating Terrorism - reaffirmed the common interest and approaches of both countries on a range of bilateral, regional and international issues. This is but natural given our affinity in both countries being territorially large and pluralistic and having commonality of interest in meeting current global challenges, in particular, terrorism. On the economic side, agreements were signed on Intellectual Property, Banking and Telecommunications. It is our objective to complement our excellent political and strategic relations by deepening its economic content. Specific steps are being taken to meet this goal, which focus on increasing the contacts between the private sectors of our respective countries.

2. Could you assess the current level of our defence cooperation? Is the agreement on sale of Admiral Gorshkov going to be signed in the month of March?

Our defence cooperation with Russia is long standing, mutually beneficial and a factor of stability in Asia and beyond. We have a long term cooperation programme extended up to 2010. Recent examples included the supply of SU-30, MKI aircraft and T-90 tanks. Negotiations are in progress on the conclusion of contract on the supply of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier. We are satisfied with the progress being made, which is being monitored regularly, including during the recent visit of our Defence Minister to Russia in January. I must also mention the Aerospace exhibition in Bangalore, in which Russian products were prominently displayed. Efforts are being made to qualitatively improve our defence cooperation from seller-buyer level to joint research, design and development. The state-of-the-Art Brahmos missile is an example of our joint research.

3.    What are the prospects for economic cooperation in general?

    Both sides realize that the existing level of bilateral trade and investment is not adequate and certainly below potential.  The biggest challenge confronting our bilateral economic and commercial engagement is to establish a climate of greater predictability, confidence and awareness. While we would strive towards further consolidation of traditional sectors of our engagement, there is a continuous search for new areas of cooperation.  Certain core sectors for future cooperation have already been identified.  These include machinery and equipment,  IT and telecom,   energy, automobile and components, gems and jewellery, food processing,  pharmaceuticals and  biotechnology and tourism.  India's investment in the Sakhalin project and Russian   investment in the Kudankulam nuclear power plant underline the increased interest  and  renewed commitment towards  boosting trade and investment relations. Both investments are to the tune of $1.7 billion each.  Our continuing cooperation in the field of science and technology and our joint efforts towards  commercializing  technologies  is  a matter of great encouragement and  promise.   

4. Pakistan is accused of cross border terrorism. What are the prospects of improvement in India-Pakistan relations?

  There is widespread recognition that the epicenter of international terrorism is located in the common neighbourhood of both India and Russia, in particular Pakistan. It is no secret that a large infrastructure of terrorism has been built up over the last two decades in Pakistan and its controlled territory. Despite repeated calls by international community to effectively fulfill its commitment and obligations to put an end to infiltration of terrorists into India as well as to dismantle terrorist infrastructure operating on Pakistani soil and on Pakistan controlled territory, there is compelling evidence that little has been achieved. There is a complete convergence of views between India and Russia that there can be no double standards on terrorism. Pakistan must implement its commitments. The resumption of dialogue is possible when Pakistan gives up its deliberate policy of relying on terrorism as proxy war and as an instrument of foreign policy.

5. What is your position on India-Iran gas pipeline?

There have been repeated reports of armed tribal blowing up existing pipelines in Pakistan. In such a situation, India cannot countenance any cooperation, which involves Pakistan, especially because gas will have to transit via the territory of Pakistan.

6. US operation against Iraq is looming. Will Delhi support this action? How significant could be an estimated impact of this war upon Indian interests?

We support Iraq’s compliance with the UN Resolutions and elimination of weapons of mass destruction there. We believe that whatever decisions are taken, it is important to have the sanction of the United Nations behind them. We also maintain that if Iraq complies with UN Resolutions, then sanctions should be lifted in tandem on humanitarian considerations.

7. What kind of common goals and plans India and Russia could have in Afghanistan reconstruction?

The complex and enormous security and political challenges emanating from Afghanistan have affected not just India and Russia but far beyond. Both our countries have an interest in the successful implementation of the Bonn Agreement and extend full support to the Karzai Administration aimed at promoting national reconciliation, economic reconstruction, rebuilding of Afghan institutions, including indigenous security structures according to Afghan needs and priorities and to bring back Afghanistan on to its feet so that it is able to defeat internal and external threats. India and Russia both individually and bilaterally have worked towards these objectives, including through a Joint Working Group on Afghanistan, established two years ago. India and Russia are one in assessing the current situation wherein Afghanistan is more peaceful but not yet stable. There are reports about regrouping of Taliban and Al Qaeda forces backed by Pakistan attempting to fulfill political vacuum in the Pushtoon areas. If not checked, we may see a repeated performance of Pakistan yet again trying to pursue its ambitious policies in Afghanistan, reminiscent of the early 90s.

8. What is India’s position vis-à-vis Shanghai Cooperation Orgnaisation?

India believes that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is pursuing an important agenda, especially with regard to combating the menace of terrorism. India is interested in joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and has made its intentions clear to the Russian Federation as well as the other Member States. Our membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is not dependant on any other state joining or not joining this Organization. We believe that India will be able to contribute constructively to the agenda of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. We understand, however, that currently the rules of membership do not allow the accession of new states into the grouping. We are, however, following the activities of the Organization with interest.

 

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