Address by H.E. Mr Nikolay Kudashev, Ambassador of Russia to India Ananta Aspen Centre Ambassador Series
Esteemed Ambassador Lambah,
Representatives fr om diplomatic core, expert community and media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to be with you today at this remarkable and well-reputed institution in India!
The Russian-Indian relations evolved into the special and privileged strategic partnership in 2010 are dynamically expanding year by year combining traditional spheres of cooperation and new areas, which are being actively explored. Old ties of friendship and seven decades of unfailing mutual support on the most crucial issues in the international arena become even more relevant today, when the world slides to turbulence and chaos with the global agenda becomes extremely politicized.
As you know, nowadays the majority of the Western countries led and even arm-twisted by the USA and the UK are running an anti-Russian campaign based purely on geopolitical grounds. Not because Russia is allegedly guilty for whatever we take – be it groundless accusations of meddling in the Presidential elections in America, support of the legitimate Government in Syria, using chemical weapons in the UK, not to forget shooting down the Malaysian Boeing over the territory of Ukraine. However, the Western partners have failed to prove these allegations. Being “highly likely” responsible for something, according to the British Prime Minister Theresa May terminology, is enough for them to blame and even take concrete actions against Russia, while the professional investigations are either not held or going without any outcomes showing Russian implication. Such steps negatively affect international stability, undermine international law and basic principles of interstate cooperation.
On April 14, the United States, together with Great Britain and France, committed an act of aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic by launching a massive missile attack on its territory in violation of the UN Charter and norm and principles of international law. Over one hundred air- and sea-launched cruise missiles were fired on a number of targets in Syria, more than 70 of which were successfully intercepted by the Syrian air defence systems.
This step was designed to intimidate and was taken under an absolutely contrived pretext of the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government in the city of Douma on April 7. Having visited the site of the would-be chemical attack, Russian military experts did not find any traces of chlorine or any other toxic agent. Not a single local resident was able to confirm that a chemical attack had actually taken place. Instead, the Western countries once again appear to be trusting more to mass media and social networks, whose allegations became in fact the pretext for the decision making to launch military strike against a sovereign country. The missile strikes were made just as inspectors fr om the OPCW were about to head to Douma with a mission to find out the truth. However, in a sign of cynical disdain, a group of Western countries decided to take military action without waiting for the results of the investigation. There is every reason to believe that the objective behind the attack on Syria was to obstruct the work of the OPCW inspectors.
There is no escaping the fact that the aggression has taken place at a time when the Syrian troops are pressing on with their successful assault on ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups. To all appearances, the US and its allies want to give radicals and extremists a chance to catch their breath and restore their ranks in order to prolong bloodshed on the Syrian territory and thus hinder political settlement.
It is becoming absolutely clear that those in the West who hide behind humanitarian rhetoric and try to justify their military presence in Syria by the need to finish off jihadists, in reality share their goals and are working towards breaking up the country. This conclusion is proved out by the categorical refusal of the USA and its allies to assist in the restoration of the Syrian regions liberated by the government army.
Last of all, this act of aggression dealt a powerful blow to the efforts to invigorate the Geneva political process on the basis of the UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which unanimously reaffirmed the commitment to respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic.
We urge to immediately put an end to this highly dangerous line of the Western leaders to break down all the agreements on ways to reach Syria settlement.
As President Vladimir Putin said, Russia condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack against Syria, wh ere Russian military personnel are assisting the legitimate government in its counterterrorism efforts. Through its actions, the US makes the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Syria even worse and brings suffering to civilians. In fact, the US panders to the terrorists who have been tormenting the Syrian people for seven years, leading to a wave of refugees fleeing this country and the region. The current escalation around Syria is destructive for the entire system of international relations. History will set things right, and the West already bears the heavy responsibility for the bloody outrage in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya.
As for another resonance incident of the 4th of March nerve gas attack with the use of so-called “Novichok” agent against the Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, our British colleagues are refusing to answer dozens of questions on that case, which were asked on different dates and even upd ated by us. They answer that we did not respond to any of the questions they posed to the Russian side. Let me remind you that London asked only a single question of us, and it was meant for Russia to confess how Novichok was delivered to London – either on the order from Russian President Putin or due to Russia’s negligence in losing control over its chemical stocks.
Instead, British officials claimed that Russia has violated the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), opting for a language of ultimatums, which will take us nowhere. What is more, London has denied the Russian Federation its right of consular access to the Russian citizens.
As you know, in the Skripal case the British specially invited a group of OPCW experts. It was done exclusively in a bilateral manner, it was announced that the others would be informed about the conclusions reached by the group. In the report, the chemical composition of the agent presented by the British was confirmed, and the analysis of samples, as the report states, was taken by the OPCW experts themselves. It contains no names, Novichok or any other. The report only gives the chemical formula, which, according to our experts, points to an agent that had been developed in many countries and does not present any particular secret.
Let me state: Russia has consistently and in good faith complied with its CWC obligations, including declaration of all chemical weapon stockpiles in its territory and complete and total elimination of its chemical arsenal, which has been verified by the OPCW, which comprises 192 states, including the United Kingdom and the USA. The nerve agent known in the West as “Novichok” has never been produced, stored or put into service by the Russian Federation. Moreover, the USA has no moral right to blame any country on the pretext of chemical weapons possession since Washington itself is the biggest violator of the CWC unable or refusing to destroy its chemical arsenals according to the CWC obligations.
In order to unblock the situation with the Salisbury incident, Russia on April 4, 2018 initiated a special session of the OPCW Executive Council. Despite support of other independent countries like our friend India, the outcomes clearly showed that there is no interest in the West to conduct a professional investigation or accept our many offers for cooperation, which we are still ready for.
Russia’s non-existing threat, however, dominates the Western approaches almost everywhere. They just feel uncomfortable when Russia is strong, has its own opinion, does not agree to compromise its national interests and accept unlawful policies. The “Skripal case” in terms of possible consequences is pretty much in line with other serious developments, which pose direct threat to the Russian national and security interests, such as uncontrolled expansion of NATO, withdrawal of the USA from the Anti-Missile Defence Treaty, deployment of WMD in non-nuclear states. Not to mention the practice of illegal unilateral sanctions which they don’t hesitate to widely use just to punish somebody they don’t like or to get advantages in competition for the market access.
It is a well-established fact that devastation of Iraq and Libya led to radicalization of Muslim communities and, finally, creation of ISIS. Blatant and cruel intervention in the domestic affairs followed by thousands of victims among civilians and asylum seekers don’t prevent the Western powers to claim that they are peace champions. There is no clear answer on what legal ground the American forces are still present in Syria, “highly likely” – not to allow any successful stabilization efforts led by Russia prevail. It is an open question whom should we mean when we hear from Washington stating that it is important to behave according to international law.
There is no other explanation rather than deep crisis in the West, when the only reason, which seemingly may unite it, is Russia. This reason remains geopolitical, and sometimes clearly used to divert attention from other vital problems, which they are unable to resolve. They lose their reputation as responsible players in many other regions due to the growing independent voice of emerging economies, fear the truth, remain unable to recognize their failures. What is worse, anti-Russian sentiments have become integral part of their domestic politics, which makes it even more difficult for them to return the relations back to normal.
Russia, as a responsible power, consistently calls for the consolidation of international peace and security, for the comprehensive settlement of any situations and crises by means of a constructive dialogue and open interaction. We are ready to respond to any threat, but prefer the way of cooperation and mutual respect.
That is exactly what we value when we speak about our partnership with India. It is a matter of great satisfaction and proud that notwithstanding global turbulence we concentrate on real things trying to effectively use complementarity of our potentials for the sake of development, prosperity and security in bilateral, regional and international dimensions.
Russia and India may proudly boast of their durable and multipronged ties. Annual summits, held alternately in two countries, are pinnacle events of the year providing major boosts to further advance of bilateral cooperation. The next summit is se t for this October in India, and dedicated work is now underway in order to fill the upcoming top level meeting with substance and concrete agreements.
Our leaders attach utmost importance to enhancing bilateral trade. The year 2017 showed an inspiring trend with 21.5% increase in the turnover, making the final figure close to USD 10 bn. This year also started with positive tendency. Together we strive to achieve USD 30 bn in trade and USD 15 bn in investments by 2025.
Construction of nuclear power plants in India is an established area of cooperation full of mutual trust and long-term plans. It is noteworthy that while first four units of NPP Kudankulam, with two already operational and two more under construction, are subject to 20% localization, the next two units, 5 and 6, will source up to 50% of locally manufactured parts and equipment. It is an excellent example of how Russian economic interests concur with the Indian domestic agenda and its requirements. For this project being further expanded, we have offered to our Indian friends the latest generation 3-plus nuclear reactors VVER-1200 powered by advanced fuel. Besides, with the recently signed tripartite agreement involving Russia, India and Bangladesh, on cooperation in construction of NPP Ruppur, now we have a promising starting point to explore together with our Indian partners the markets of other third countries.
Hydrocarbons constitute another major area of cooperation. Last August saw the USD 12.9 bn acquisition of the Essar Oil Limited by the Russian Rosneft oil company together with the international consortium of investors – the largest investment deal in the history of modern India. Indian companies have made huge investments in the Russian oilfields totally amounting to USD 10 bn, seeking to diversify its energy basket and ensure national energy security. Such two-way mega scale commitments contribute to greater trust, mutual understanding and aspirations.
There are a number of current projects across various sectors. The Russian Sibur company together with Reliance Industries are constructing a butyl rubber plant in Gujarat, which is to become operational in 2019. The Russian Railways are involved in the study of the Nagpur-Secunderabad high-speed train project with further plans to participate in its execution. The examples are plenty.
We also see much potential in future activities of the Russian Export Centre, a government institution aimed at facilitating Russian small and medium exporters with financial and non-financial support. It has received the permission to open its brunch in Mumbai with a separate office in New Delhi.
We believe that direct contacts in general are indispensable in terms of creating awareness of mutual opportunities and building trusted relations. Therefore, such major economic events as the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (May 24-26), INNOPROM-2018 (Ekaterinburg, July 9-12), the Eastern Economic Forum (Vladivostok, September 11-13) serve as excellent platforms for establishing and enhancing B2B and interregional cooperation contacts.
Bilateral military and technical cooperation, which goes back to the early days of the Indian Republic, is also undergoing qualitative transformation reflecting the new realities and requirements, including transition from “buyer-seller” approach to sophisticated and sensitive technology transfer which no other countries are able to enjoy to date. About 60-70% of military equipment, armaments and ammunition in India are of the Russian origin, and that is another solid indication of the high level of mutual trust.
Among the most remarkable examples – the JV BrahMos, which celebrates its 20th jubilee this year, represents a successful cooperation and full-fledged win-win partnership based on technology transfer, joint research and development. With the missile’s land and naval versions being already in service, the recent air version test completed the tactical cruise missile triad for India. An advanced hypersonic version, BrahMos Mark II, is under joint development with projected top speed double of the current BrahMos-I and exceed Mach 5.
In the pipeline – best in the world S-400 air defence missile systems and guided missile frigates supplies, the Fifth Generation Fighter Jet Project, the Kamov-226 T helicopters (to be also produced here under the aegis of “Make in India”), and other initiatives.
The format of Military Industrial Conferences launched last March is aimed at promoting substantially different mode of interaction involving joint research, development and production of advanced defence systems. In this respect the ambitious “Make in India” initiative offers unlimited opportunities, with engagement of Indian private defence manufactures being another new feature.
We are also very proud to conduct regular large-scale military exercises. Our recent achievement in this regard – combined three forces drills in 2017. Again, it is something, which India also doesn’t have with any other country.
Time-tested friends historically, Russia and India are well positioned to further build up mutually beneficial strategic cooperation in future. Dynamically changing global and regional developments are reflected in our growing partnership based on mutual understanding and trust.
It is our common goal to continue, amid undiminishing tendencies of international uncertainty and geopolitical engineering, our dedicated efforts to strengthen the central role of the United Nations, democratization of global governance, respect for international law and multipolarity, unacceptability of interference into domestic affairs as well as double standards and unilateral approaches to solving problems, including by unlawful sanctions. Along with that, when we deal with various regional crises, it is important to take into account interests of all nations involved, which is critical to achieving lasting solutions, be it in Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, the Korean Peninsula, etc.
Strong and independent India is a core factor defining stability in Eurasia and in the world. We welcome, hence, the straightforward desire of Moscow and New Delhi to promote the shared principles and responsibilities for maintaining international law-based order by working closely within multilateral fora, first of all the UN-led bodies, BRICS, G20, the WTO. It is confirmed by regular highest, high and working level exchanges designed for effective result oriented coordination.
Russia and India as global partners are of the similar view regarding the need to prioritize implementation of the UN-based mechanisms and decisions to fight international terrorism, to establish rule-based responsible behavior in the information security domain, to prevent arms race in outer space, to support the international trading system and prevent protectionism practices, to shape just and equal global financial architecture, to strengthen climate change regime under the Paris Agreement, to avoid politicization of regional crises and human rights issues.
With the historical Indian accession to the SCO as a full-fledged member last year, this organization entered into the new stage of its development as the leading regional structure providing for a wide range of economic, infrastructure, energy, people-to-people and security cooperation opportunities. Let us be very clear: the SCO is not a military block, but a consensus-based multifaceted organization.
Special focus in this regard is made on eliminating new challenges and threats emanating from Afghanistan, including terrorism, drug trafficking and religious extremism and radicalization, which directly target national security interests of all the neighbouring countries. These interests have been mostly ignored by the foreign military presence there for more than 16 years already, while the situation in this war-thorn country has been worsening year by year. Either the foreign troops are unable to bring peace or not interested to do it (“highly likely”).
In principle, Russia and India share similar views of what country we want Afghanistan to be: stable, independent, peaceful, democratic, prosperous, friendly to all neighbours, sovereign and well connected to the regional economic network.
However, the results of the continuing foreign presence cannot be deemed as a success in any form, which is also true for the most of the formats designed for the Afghani settlement. It is clear that ideas of military solution are disconnected from the historical experience and today’s reality. Fight against terrorism needs a comprehensive approach in Afghanistan, and should first of all involve decisive steps to effectively fight against opium cultivation (this part, in fact, is missing in the US “new strategy”). According to the UN statistics each and every year drugs production is dramatically increasing in that country. Raised funds are the major source of financing terrorism there. Another big issue – illegal arms and ammunitions smuggling within Afghanistan. Innumerable volumes of donor support remain ineffective due to the problems of corruption and weak administration.
Being defeated in Iraq and Syria, the ISIS is spreading its influence in the Eastern and Northern provinces in Afghanistan (another open question is who is helping ISIS to move there), and its emissaries are penetrating the Central Asia states fuelling radicalization in local Muslim communities and calling for a global jihad. This issue is of immediate concern for Russia since we have historically robust people-to-people contacts with these countries, and, if any further escalations occurs there, the danger of huge migration flows to Russia that would contain radicalized elements is real.
Russia, India and other countries make a large contribution to support the National Unity Government and its security forces. However, in the absence of an intra-Afghanistan political process the Taliban fully or partially controls almost a half of the country, waging outrageous hostilities and organizing sabotage. We wish it or not, dialogue between Kabul and Taliban, irrespective of how challenging it is, is the only way forward for the sake of a lasting national reconciliation. Announcement by President Ashraf Ghani of the recent initiative in this regard is a welcoming step. The “Afghan-led” principle should reflect a consensus among Afghanis, while the way of ultimatums and “recipes from afar” don’t help.
The problems of Afghanistan are impossible to resolve without taking onboard every neighbouring country. Excessive pressure on certain states would just antagonize them and make numerous problems even more complicated. There is growing demand for cooperation and unifying agenda rather than implementation of geopolitical projects, which lead the region to chaos.
That is why we are focused on building consensus among the regional countries under the aegis of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group with Kabul as its permanent co-chair as well as the Moscow Dialogue. We are aimed at comprehensive support of Afghanistan by broader involvement of this country into the established cooperation network, including joint implementation of social, economic, infrastructure, education, health, security and anti-drugs related projects. We are looking forward to solid Indian contribution towards this end.
We are also ready for practical cooperation with the US. Let us make it very clear: it is not about leadership in the region, but real security problems, which are the matter of growing concern, especially for those who are here by geography. Only unified approach by all countries, including the regional neighbours, setting aside bilateral disputes, will send a solid and responsible signal to not only Taliban, but also everybody among us. That would be very important confidence building step.
This logic also guides us towards further developing relations with Pakistan, which is, on the other hand, Russia’s historic and important regional partner as well. These ties are not emanating from the regional balance of power equations, but growing on their own merits. They got new impetus since Islamabad has become the SCO member-state, and it is in the interest of the regional stability to help Pakistanis as well as Indians to effectively adjust themselves to the new forms of cooperation offered by the SCO and to enhance their anti-terrorism capacity.
Importantly, we don’t look at the situation in the region from the point of view of bilateral disputes, which we are not in a position to interfere or take sides. There should be a realistic and comprehensive approach to the issues of common interest rather than a geopolitical one. We are open for contacts with every country, especially if it would help to ensure the regional stability, which, on the other hand, also remains largely dependent on constructive relationship between New Delhi and Islamabad. No doubt, that existing disagreements between India and Pakistan should be resolved politically and diplomatically, according to the provisions of the 1972 Shimla Agreement and the 1999 Lahore Declaration. We believe in dialogue, and stand ready to support it, if requested by both sides.
Russia, by the way, remains consistent in exercising the same approach seeking unifying agenda when we speak about cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and Eurasia as a whole, wh ere India by objective reasons is one of the leading players.
It is a big space, which needs more interaction and more connections. Russia and India are among the most interested nations in terms of promoting regional connectivity. There is a huge potential to develop a Great Eurasian partnership involving a synergy of the integration activities pushed forward in the framework of the SCO, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and ASEAN. Negotiations between India and the EEU is on our immediate agenda.
Effective implementation of the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) initiative is of big importance, especially when we are talking about how to increase our trade and economic linkages with India. However, it has a clear regional dimension as well, since it would enhance trade and transit connectivity between South Asia, Iran, Central Asia, Caucasia and Europe. We are committed to the speedy launch of the “green corridor” facilitating customs formalities. The proposed revival of the Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor may also drastically (almost by half) shorten the transportation time required for goods and commodities.
Russia is ready to cooperate on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which involves almost all the countries in the SCO region. The member-states are already implementing various agreements with China under the BRI. We see this project purely from the economic perspective as part of common efforts dedicated to enhance regional connectivity.
A very successful and forward-looking meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, India and China in the format of the RIC was held in New Delhi in December 2017. We are of a strong belief that decisions to further enlarge and deepen our trilateral cooperation and coordination would contribute to the Eurasian and global stability. That is, in fact, the main distinction of the RIC, which unlike some other separate formats such as the so-called “Quad”, is not aimed against anyone in the region, but rather directed at exploring cooperation opportunities and building confidence between the participants, expanding a common ground among them. Of course, based on the traditional international law.
We are of the same approach with India that regional and maritime security issues should be managed by collective efforts and dialogue. The Asia-Pacific region increasingly becomes an epicenter of the world economic and political activities, and this is another reason why we have to handle it carefully by promoting cooperation mechanisms in order to solve various problems in a most efficient way. There are too many challenges – terrorism, drug and human trafficking, illegal arms trade, piracy, illegal fishing, natural disasters – and only unified approach would help to manage them.
India is one of our most important partners in the Asia-Pacific, and we cherish a strong independent role played by New Delhi as well as the level of our mutual understanding and engagement in the activities of the multilateral bodies such as the East Asia Summits, ASEAN Regional Forum, “ADMM+”. In the Indian Ocean, we enjoy increasing partnership within the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
We are of the principled position to promote the dialogue on the inclusive and undivided regional security architecture in the framework of the East Asia Summit involving all its member-states. We should be able to effectively use this mechanism in order to find collective solutions to the common challenges and threats as well as raise awareness of sensitive interests of all players. At the same time, we should avoid creation of any alienation lines not to antagonize anyone, which would be absolutely counterproductive and harmful to the regional stability.
To sum up, our global and regional priorities to a great extent are coinciding or similar. We take pride in our ability to have profound, open-minded, sincere and forward-looking discussions that, frankly speaking, not many countries are able to maintain. It is important to note that our mutual engagements are not directed against anybody else’s interests, but strengthen unifying and constructive agenda.
Looking ahead, Russia and India have a very solid historical and institutional ground as well as traditionally enjoy mutual favour, which gives us every opportunity to continue expanding our cooperation bilaterally and multilaterally.