Russian-Indian relations have a very high potential

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Russian-Indian relations have a very high potential 21.07.2017 11:41




The State Duma hosted a meeting of the fourth Russian-Indian parliamentary commission. At the meeting, the Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Education and Science, the chairman of the board of the Foundation “Russian Wiorld” Vyacheslav Nikonov delivered a speech. The politician presented a serious analysis of Russian-Indian relations, especially noting their traditionally friendly nature and high potential for development of cooperation. Here is the text of Vyacheslav Nikonov's speech with minor reductions.

- Our countries have never fought; we have never had any serious conflicts. Russia and India are linked by friendly constructive relations, which number centuries of history. We remember how Mahatma Gandhi wrote letters to Lev Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana and how Tolstoy admired this remarkable young Indian who later became an unconditional symbol of India's national independence and the new Indian statehood.

We were allies in two world wars. Our country - then the Soviet Union - rendered India a great help in gaining independence and building a sovereign state. We celebrated this year the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Soviet Union played an important role in the creation of Indian industry and science. Together we carried out breakthroughs into space. And now we are watching with great interest and with great joy the return of India to the number of great world powers. It is because of the return, because we know that for many decades and even centuries India has been, at least, the second economy of the world. As early as the beginning of the 19th century, India accounted for 27% of world GDP. True, by the end of the 19th century, as a result of British colonial rule, this percentage had dropped to one and a half percent.

Now India is returning to the place that it has always occupied, and, I am sure, will occupy in the future. This is the third economy in the world. There are trusting, special friendly relations between our countries; we share many common principles and values. I would like to emphasize this, our partnership is based not only on common interests, but also on common values, these are the values of sovereignty, a multipolar world, the priority of international law, non-interference in internal affairs, readiness and the ability to build our internal development in accordance with the interests of our own people. And yet - these are the values of democracy. Whatever the world press writes and a large part of the Indian English-language press, Russia is certainly a democracy, and we, in turn, support the democratic values that our Indian colleagues stand for.

We have a very high level of relations between the leaders. This was stressed recently, in Hamburg. And before that, in the beginning of June, Narendra Modi's visit to the Russian Federation took place in connection with his participation in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where the summit was held and many tasks of bilateral relations were solved.

In the Russian system of foreign policy priorities, India acts as one of the most important partners, it is important both as an independent force and in the context of our diverse multilateral formats. We cooperate well in the formats of BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in the context of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the mechanisms of the East Asian Summits, where the leaders of our states, the ASEAN Regional Forum also meet, at which we can discuss security problems in the Asia-Pacific region.

We see that India has other formats of partnership, and we understand that India, like Russia, is now an independent center of power and is building a multi-vector system of international relations.

We understand the growing desire to position India as an East Asian and Pacific country.

Recently, Russia and India are increasingly coordinating their approaches to issues in the Middle East, where the conflicts caused by Islamist extremism are flaring up, as well as their approaches to Afghanistan.

Partnership is important for us within these international organizations; we highly appreciate the results of the Indian chairmanship in the BRICS. This was a successful chairmanship, including, inter alia, the launch of the BRICS Development Bank, an idea that was largely initiated by the Indian side. We can only congratulate our Indian colleagues on the successful chairmanship of the BRICS. We can also congratulate our Indian colleagues on joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a full member, which recently took place at the Astana summit. This is really an important step in establishing our multilateral partnership and smoothing out the contradictions that exist, unfortunately for all of us, in relations between India and some of its neighbors, and now partners in the SCO, such as China and Pakistan.

As for the inter-parliamentary dialogue, we already talked about a break, although an interparliamentary forum of the five countries was held within the framework of the Russian presidency of the BRICS, and the Indian delegation was represented. For us, it was not quite clear then that the Indian side gave this format not the highest value. It should be noted that the Russian initiative of the inter-parliamentary dimension of BRICS did not, unfortunately, continue the Indian chairmanship in the future. In our opinion, this format fully meets the interests of the development of partnership. We, in general, guess what is associated with India's lack of willingness to participate in this, but we think that Indian fears in this case have no basis. It would be nice to attach more importance to the format of the parliamentary dimension of the BRICS.

We have many informal channels of interaction. There is a fruitful dialogue of experts, in which I have been taking part for many years. Our partner organization on the Indian side is the Observer Research Foundation, representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of India. We are working at the expert level on many issues related to bilateral cooperation and multilateral interaction in the BRICS format. We work together in the Expert Council and the BRICS Academic Forum. I am sure that these channels will be useful for use in interparliamentary cooperation.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we also have separate formats for interaction, for example, the participation of Russian parliamentarians and our Indian counterparts in the tripartite expert exchange between India, Russia and Iran. We have already held three such meetings - in Moscow, Delhi and Tehran - and we think to continue this interaction.

If one is talking about trade and industrial relations, then there is a lot of positive, at the same time, this is one of the problem areas. On the one hand, we have long-standing contacts, there are areas of cooperation that we can be very satisfied with, for example, military-technical, the most advanced of all. In Russia, it is often recalled that in the 90’s of the twentieth century, it was the Indian military orders that helped the Russian military-industrial complex survive. Now - the times are different, but our cooperation is also very fruitful. We launched a joint production of many components of military products; the BrahMos missile is the peak of such cooperation.

The portfolio of orders in 2012-2016 for military-technical cooperation amounted to $46 billion. This is much more than the rest of our trade, and this shows that in fact, trade and economic relations between Russia and India need a serious stimulus. Yes, we have a project for the construction of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, there has begun a fairly active trade in energy resources, there are joint projects in the field of engineering, chemistry, and pharmaceutics, but look at the figures of our trade turnover - they do not correspond to the status of great powers. There is a huge unrealized potential for cooperation, and now the intergovernmental commission is working on how to use this potential more fully.

One of the traditional problems between our countries in the economic sphere, and not only in it, lies in the fact that the logistics of Eurasia did not and does not presume the existence of transport corridors between our countries, and this is a big obstacle. Now many projects are being developed for the development of the transport infrastructure of the big Eurasia, and we are interested in ensuring that these projects are implemented. We know about the contradictions that exist in connection with Chinese projects, but in any case, the logistics of Eurasia is absolutely necessary to develop. Without the East-West and North-South transport corridors, Eurasia will always lag behind in developing its trade and economic ties.

Of course, there are also many problems in our relations - I would not exaggerate them, but they do exist.

It is obvious to me that the relations between the leaders of the two countries can be regarded as very fruitful, but at the same time, the urgency of implementing those agreements that are achieved at the highest level is felt. We must draw our bureaucrats' attention to the fact that they would more clearly implement the agreements reached by our leaders...

Humanitarian cooperation between Russia and India is also developing, but it lags behind opportunities. We can exchange students much more, conduct joint scientific research. Unfortunately, India does not manage to create a sufficient number of Russian language centers, although for many years a fairly good school for the study of the Russian language has been formed and operates in India.

We, the parliamentarians of the two countries, express the will of our voters. People in India and Russia are very positive about each other. You will not meet anyone in the Russian Federation who would consider India at least somewhat unfriendly towards our country. Russians have a great interest in Indian culture, in the standard package of TV programs there are Indian channels, including, with translation into Russian.

We are confident that the opportunities offered to us by the high-level dialogue, the mutual understanding of our societies and the general demand in the modern world for the rapprochement of independent centers of power that are able to defend our line and national interests on the international arena creates a very good basis for our interaction.