There is unlimited potential for India and Russia as partners

Jul 17, 2006 02:00 AM

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh granted an interview.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, which issues were the most important for India in the meeting with the leaders of G8 countries in St Petersburg? What kind of contribution is India ready to make in developing such themes of the Summit as "energy security" and "fight against infectious diseases"?

Answer: All the focus areas for discussion in the G8 framework -- energy security, education and fighting infectious diseases -- are of great interest to India. With regard to energy security, we expect a balanced outcome that would reflect the interests of both producers and consumers. There is a need to think of ways to enhance stability and predictability of the energy market.
From the Indian perspective, the diversification of the energy mix with a greater share of nuclear energy and renewables is important. We also need international cooperation in the global deployment and diffusion of energy efficient and low-carbon technologies. India is playing its part in making these transitions.

In health, India is emerging as a global destination for high quality and inexpensive health care. We seek partnerships to leverage our large pool of trained medical personnel. A critical issue for us is access to second and third generation drugs at affordable prices. Protection of IPR should not come in the way of the basic moral imperative of providing universal access to life saving drugs.
India is committed to achieving the goal of "Education for All". A global effort will be essential to bring about complete literacy in developing countries, as also an upgrading of skills.

We also consider very important that the St Petersburg Summit resulted in a strong and united stand against international terrorism that would reinforce the commitment of all present to work together to eliminate this major threat to a civilized global order.
For India this is particularly relevant, as we have once again become the targets of terrorist violence -- in Mumbai and in Srinagar on July 11, 2006.

Question: Does India, which has achieved great success in the economic sphere, intend to become a member of G8?

Answer: At St Petersburg, I was present at the invitation of His Excellency the President of Russia. India was a special invitee at meetings between the G8 Leaders and the outreach countries. It is difficult to speak of what lies ahead, but we will wait and see how things evolve.

Question: How do you assess the perspective of trade-economic and investment cooperation between India and Russia including in the fields of energy and diamonds?

Answer: The economic pillar of our strategic relationship needs attention, as at present it is not as strong as it should be. Our economy has registered good growth rates in recent years and so has the Russian economy. This should be reflected in the quality of our bilateral economic relations.
Our annual trade turnover currently stands at around $ 2-3 bn, which is far below the potential of both the Indian and Russian economies. We hope to raise the level of bilateral trade to $ 10 bn by 2010.

A bilateral Joint Study Group between the Trade Ministries of the two countries has been set up to examine ways to enhance bilateral trade and economic cooperation and facilitate the signing of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.
Energy is key to transforming our economic relationship. Russia is one of the largest producers of energy and India is one of the largest consumers. We have invested a couple of bn dollars in Sakhalin-I and we are willing to invest more if opportunities are available. There is unlimited potential for India and Russia, as excellent political partners, to develop a strong energy partnership.

Civilian nuclear power projects offer large possibilities once the necessary political issues are resolved. Russian investments in Indian infrastructure development are welcome. I think something should be done quickly to ease business travel between the two countries, as the current visa procedures appear to be an obstacle to developing business-to-business contacts.
Russia is one of the world’s leading producers of diamonds and India’s strength in the area of diamond processing is well known. In this context, there is considerable potential for diamond exports directly from Russia to India, and for joint ventures to be set up between companies in our two countries for diamond processing and marketing.

Question: India has traditionally been one of the main partners of Russia in the field of military-technical cooperation. Do you expect that this trend would be preserved and in which directions in this area does India intend to develop cooperation with Moscow?

Answer: Our long-standing defence cooperation underpins the strategic nature of our ties. Russia is the principal defence supplier to India and currently nearly $ 10 bn worth of contracts are in various stages of being realized. Both sides wish to expand further this defence cooperation beyond a buyer-seller relationship to joint research, design, development, production and marketing as well as closer military-to-military ties.
The Brahmos missile is a fine example of what can be achieved by working jointly to produce state-of-the-art equipment. Regular joint military exercises reflect a broadening of the military-to-military relationship. An agreement on protection of IPRs in the military-technical field was signed during my visit to Moscow in December 2005, and this should further enhance the quality of our future defence cooperation.

Question: In your opinion what are the perspectives for mutual cooperation in the India-Russia-China format? In your view, what are the issues that this mechanism of cooperation should essentially focus upon?

Answer: India, Russia and China need greater coordination and common understanding in meeting challenges. The most important is the fight against terrorism and religious extremism, and drug trafficking and trans-border crimes, which also have linkages to the problem of terrorism.
There is also considerable untapped potential for trilateral economic cooperation including in such spheres as trade, investment, banking, transportation linkages, agriculture, energy and high technologies.

Question: Do you expect Russian support for the India’s quest for gaining the status of permanent member of the United Nation Security Council, as well as for the candidature of Shashi Tharoor as the successor to Kofi Annan for the post of UN Secretary General?

Answer: There is no question that the UN needs to be reformed. This issue has been discussed in the UN General Assembly and certain decisions have been reached. We support broad-based UN reforms but are convinced that unless the structure of the Security Council is changed to reflect contemporary global realities, any UN reform would be inadequate and incomplete.
The world of 2005 cannot be effectively served by an institution forged in 1945. Short term considerations should not stand in the way of the compelling need for reform in order to strengthen multilateralism on which there is a global consensus. In this context, we are grateful for Russia’s continued support for India’s candidature for permanent membership of the restructured Security Council.
Mr Shashi Tharoor, Under Secretary General at the United Nations, is India’s candidate for the post of the UN Secretary General.
In view of his impeccable credentials and our traditionally close relations with Russia, we naturally expect Russia’s wholehearted support for his candidature.

Source: Interfax
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