India and Russia are making the multipolar world stronger: Russian Ambassador to India
By Stanly Johny
The Indo-Russian cooperation that is built in mutual trust and enriching each other is a living formula for the rest of the world, said Russia’s Ambassador in New Delhi, Nikolay R. Kudashev. In an interview with The Hindu, Mr. Kudashev spoke of a host of issues such as bilateral defence and economic cooperation, the growing U.S.-Russian tensions the echo the Cold War, the Pakistan factor in Indo-Russian ties and the need for launching new connectivity projects between the two countries. Edited excerpts:
- What brings you to Chennai?
I was very much invigorated by the meeting with the Chief Minister [Edappadi Palanisamy]. We underlined the key elements of our partnership such as connectivity, energy, transportation, tourism and education. Finally, he introduced to us the idea of the defence industrial corridor and the opportunities it could offer to Russian businessmen and industrialists. So the meeting with the Chief Minister was very positive. Then I also met the Governor [Banwarilal Purohit]. He was also very positive about our bilateral ties. The riches of Tamil Nadu is its man power — dynamic, well-educated and friendly. My participation in the GIM [Global Investors Meet] was also very positive. Tamil Nadu is offering business opportunities not only in the defence and tourism sectors but also in IT, manufacturing, agriculture, etc.
- Were there any specific agreements reached between Russian businesses and Tamil Nadu during your visit?
No specific memorandum was done. These are very large-scale ideas. They are being discussed within the scope of the bilateral summit. The Indo-Russia bilateral ties are vast. But there are specific ideas discussed in the bilateral summits, which could be implemented in the future. First, the idea of establishing a transportation corridor between Chennai and Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East. This corridor could bring closer Tamil Nadu’s development to the vast natural resources of Russia’s Far East — gas, oil, coal, gold, diamonds, rare earth, other metals, etc.— and vice versa. We need Indian machinery. We need Indian agricultural products, Indian man power and so on. So this is the idea. Further movement on this will be possible in the nearest future.
Secondly, there’s another idea of setting up a North-South transport corridor — this could bring Tamil Nadu closer to Russia’s European part. The CM is also very much keen on this. Kudankulam nuclear power plant is another project where further development is expected. It is being developed successfully. Block one and two are very much on. Three and four, construction activity started. For five and six, the legal issues are settled. Finance is there, the agreements are there, the contracts are there. We are looking for a second site — six more blocks. The Indian government should offer the site to us.
- Let’s talk about bilateral ties. India recently said that it will go ahead with the S-400 missile defence system deal with Russia despite American pressure. What is the current status of the deal? When Russia is expected to deliver the systems?
The deal was done, and the first delivery, as far as we understand, will start by 2020 — may be earlier, but not later, definitely — and it will continue for three to four years. This is a very large deal, it’s about $6 billion. This would be valuable contribution to the security of the Indian air space and number two, this will be a proof of the special nature of the ties between India and Russia. Russia is not very much concerned about the influence of U.S. sanctions. As far as Russia is concerned, our relationship with India is independent, irrespective what a third party might say, Americans or anybody.
- But will India and Russia face problems of payment because of American sanctions?
There were some problems over working nature, to be frankly. Due to the enormous size of the deal, it’s not easy to make the payment of an amount as big as $6-7 billion. But recently, both parties, Russia and India, came together to develop a practical solution involving banks of two sides and national currencies. This is what I could say about it. So a practical solution is there and it started working. So as far as the problem is concerned, it’s no more. Rather, it is about building the experience, the habit of payments in national currencies.
- India and Russia were friends for a long time. But in recent years, India has moved closer towards the U.S. Do you think that has impacted the equation between Russia and India?
It could sound strange. But we are not very much concerned about India’s ties with the U.S. Why is it? Because, first of, there there’s trust between our leaders and our political establishments. We trust each other. We feel that it is more or less natural for a country of India’s size, influence and power to develop normal ties with other states. Be it the U.S., Japan, China or any other country. Our relationship is not into a straightjacket. Our relationship is a living formula, enriching the two of us. We are making the multipolar world stronger. So we feel that Indian influence, Indian role, Indian contribution in the international arena is naturally a positive factor. And India is welcome everywhere, be it Central Asia, be it Russia’s closer neighbourhood, be it Latin America, be it Northern America. India is a friend. India is a reasonable and a responsible power. India is factor of peace and development. And we know that your relationship with the U.S. would not be anti-Russian in nature. Otherwise the existing trust and the depths of cooperation between us would not have been possible.
- Russia has a growing relationship with Pakistan, especially defence ties. How do you look at the Pakistan angle in Indo-Russia partnership?
Our relationship with India is a special strategic partnership. We share with India unique confidence. Our leaders meet each other at least five to six times a year. If I may ask when was the last time President Putin met a Pakistan Prime Minister? I don’t remember. We share vast commonality of views on international issues. There’s growing trade and investment. And we share unique military and other technologies with India, which are not even widely available in Russia. If you compare our ties with India to our relationship with Pakistan, then you will see that our relationship with Islamabad is minuscule. The aims of our ties with Pakistan is very much similar to yours — we need a stable government, predictable, we need a government which fulfils its obligations, to fight terror, drugs and crime. Once that’s the case, we are ready to deal with their government and to support it to fulfil its obligations. We feel that there’s scope for us to cooperate with Pakistan on this common agenda — common for Russia and Pakistan and common for Russia and India. So this is a normal type of relationship. What we need is normalcy. This is not some geopolitical game, to get some advantages fr om India. This is not the case with us. Because the trust and the depth of our relationship is incomparable with ties with Pakistan. Pakistan is our neighbour. We need stability there as well as you.
- Globally, there are tensions between the U.S. and Russia, be it in Syria, Ukraine. Do you see similarities between these tensions and that of the Cold War?
Our relationship with the U.S. was always partly cloudy. It was never free of problems, be it Russian-American or Soviet American ties. So today’s problems are not exactly unexpected. What is unexpected is the level of misunderstanding from the American side. Whether it would resemble the Cold War, You could say yes, you could say no. Cold War had ideological differences, there were two countries, two systems, two poles. This is not the case now. It’s a multipolar world. So whether there’s resemblance or not, this is up to you. But what’s important is that problems are there. And we need to come to the solutions to these problems. May be we can bear in mind the positive and negative experiences of the Cold War years. There are issues of strategic stability. The American side is somewhat hesitant about the need to continue the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. The American side is negative with the idea of continuing with the INF [Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty,] treaty. The American side is positive about the global ABMs [Anti-Ballistic Missiles], which is developing. If we ruin the whole system of global strategic stability that was developed after the Second World War, what would take its place, jingoism only, gangsterism.
- Could you give some specific example on how to take the Indo-Russian strategic partnership to the next level despite the headwinds?
We are part of the Eurasian region. We feel that we need more connectivity that would serve our national interest. This is simple realism. To promote connectivity what we are doing? There’s an established dialogue. It’s being nourished with new formulas such as informal summits. It’s not only about Modi and Xi Jinping. It also involves Putin and Modi. They have started meeting on informal basis. Very private, to exchange their thoughts, to exchange their expectations about bilateral developments, regional developments and global developments. This is a new phenomenon. Economically, we feel that Russia and India are two giants. Two peaceful giants which are also vulnerable to foreign interference such as sanctions. We need to defend our growing economic cooperation from the negative influences. We have started working an economic strategy, a long term planning to protect our economic relations from disruptive market forces and negative influences. And then comes, energy. Our cooperation currently is not only about nuclear energy. It is also about LNG, coal, oil and it’s about the larger Indian investment in Russia’s Far East. We would not lim it our cooperation to earthly issues but to explore the space as well.
The Hindu: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-and-russia-are-making-the-multipolar-world-stronger/article26131647.ece