Question: For many decades, Russia and India have enjoyed friendly and strong relations while the whole world has witnessed drastic changes. Do you feel that there is the need for adjustment in international relations in order to meet the challenges of modern times? And what could be the role of Indo-Russian relationship in this context?
Prime Minister The India Russia bilateral relationship has been growing from strength to strength ever since we first established diplomatic relations in 1947. We view our relationship with Russia as an enduring friendship that has stood the test of time. Our relations with Russia enjoy a strong national consensus in India. The people of India can never forget the help and support we have received from Russia in difficult moments of our history.
India, like Russia, has sought to respond to the changes in the international system through different ways, including by broadening our engagement with the rest of the world. Our objective in India is to create an external environment that is conducive to meeting the developmental aspirations of our people, and to address the key challenges of our times - the global economic and financial crisis, energy security and climate change, terrorism, and reform of global institutions of governance. We are however clear that our growing engagement with the rest of the world cannot be at the cost of our time tested ties with Russia. Russia is an important factor of peace, stability and security in the world.
An effective response to the regional and global challenges we face demands that both India and Russia further intensify their Strategic Partnership. As two large pluralistic democracies undergoing rapid economic transformation, we share many common interests and have similar viewpoints on global issues. During my visit to Russia I propose to discuss with President Medvedev the steps we can take to raise our Strategic Partnership to the next level.
Question: Our countries are strategic partners with an already broad range of cooperation lines. Which new spheres, to your mind, should be explored from the point of view of cooperation opportunities? What are the priorities of our relationship for the nearest future that you are going to discuss with the Russian leaders?
Prime Minister: The India-Russia Annual Summit is the principal vehicle to advance our Strategic Partnership. Every such Summit has contributed to this process. It involves discussions on a broad range of subjects from bilateral cooperation to collaboration in international fora and discussions on global issues of common concern.
In my talks with President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin, I hope to have an indepth discussion on all aspects of our relations. For several years now trade and investment ties between India and Russia have lagged behind. The trade target of US$ 10 billion that we are likely to achieve in 2010 is well below our potential, given the size of the Indian and Russian economies. We need to widen our trade basket, and promote greater investments in each other’s countries. Pharmaceuticals, Information Technology and diamonds can become areas of future growth.
During the recent meeting of our Inter-Governmental Commission in Moscow, the energy sector was identified as a thrust area of cooperation. We would in particular like to see further progress in the hydrocarbon sector, which has been under discussion for sometime. Indian companies have developed world-class capabilities and can work with their Russian counterparts in both upstream and downstream sectors. India’s energy needs are vast, and this area offers huge potential for win-win cooperation.
India and Russia have a history of close collaboration in the area of civil nuclear cooperation. New opportunities in this sector are opening up, and we would like to see greater Russian participation in our nuclear energy expansion programme. We must revitalize our cooperation in the cutting edges of science and technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and transfer of high technologies. Defence cooperation is a key pillar of our relations. We would like to strengthen it, and move towards joint design, research, development and manufacture.
We will also be discussing regional and global issues, particularly the situation in Afghanistan, terrorism, climate change and measures to revive the global economy.
Question: Your visit to Russia will coincide with the closure of the Year of India in Russia, which gave many Russians a chance to learn more about the rich Indian cultural heritage. What do you think about the role of culture as well as people to people contacts in general in building relations between our two countries?
Prime Minister: The Year of India in Russia this year, and the Year of Russia in India last year provided the people of both countries an opportunity to better understand modern India and modern Russia.
India and Russia enjoyed a strong tradition of people-to-people exchanges until the late 1980s. Russian thinkers, writers, painters, and artists have had a profound effect on India, just as our scholars and artists have had on Russia. We are keen to revive this tradition by promoting greater number of exchanges between our parliamentarians, media personnel, academics and scholars. We must in particular focus on promoting exchanges between our youth, who need to have much greater exposure to the achievements of each other’s countries. In my view, this is extremely important because both our countries are undergoing rapid transformation, and we should not be bound by old stereotypes.
Question: India actively participates in such formats as RIC (Russia-India-China), BRIC (Brazil-Russia-India-China), G20 etc. what is the significance of such multilateral mechanisms in the new global architecture?
Prime Minister: Such multilateral groupings represent the growing interdependence of the world we live in. It is becoming increasingly clear that today’s global challenges can only be addressed by cooperative effort, with the full and equal participation of major and emerging powers and economies. Such groupings are in many ways the building blocks of the emerging global architecture. India and Russia cooperate closely within the UN systems. The similarity of our views on most global issues enables us to also coordinate closely within the newer multilateral formats like BRIC and G-20. I believe we contribute significantly through these bodies in providing balanced responses to global issues like the economic downturn and climate change and indeed, in working towards a system of global governance that corresponds to the realities of the 21st century.
Question: It is not your first visit to Russia. What thoughts and emotions flash through your mind while you are preparing for the trip? What is the most vivid personal impression after your numerous visits to Russia?
Prime Minister: This will be my sixth visit to Russia as Prime Minister. For me, every visit has been a journey in consolidating and cementing the historic bonds of friendship that exist between us. There is complete mutual understanding between our countries, and a mutual stake in the success of the other.
In all my visits to Russia, I have been struck by the openness, warmth and friendship with which I have been received. I feel perfectly at home, and no stranger. I attribute this to the personal commitment of the Russian leadership to relations with India, and the strong mutual empathy that exists between our peoples.
We have seen this over the decades, beginning with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s first visit in 1955. I would feel most gratified personally if the new Russia and the new India can sustain this long-standing partnership by harnessing the tremendous goodwill our peoples have had for each other in the past.
Question: Is there a major message from India and from Indian people that you are carrying to our country and that you are carrying to President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin. We know that you are a very great and honest friend of our country. That is why I am asking this.
Prime Minister: Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been to Russia five or six times during the last five years. Every time I have been in Russia I have received great warmth and affection from all the people who I came in contact with. Both President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin are great friends of our country. I sincerely hope that this visit of mine will further develop bonds of friendship and that our strategic partnership with Russia will get deeper, broader in content.
Question: Indian economy is showing a very impressive growth. Quarterly figures have proved it. When do you expect the economy of India to rebound, recover from the global crisis which has affected it and to reach the desired level of nine per cent annual growth?
Prime Minister: Indian economy has been affected by the global slowdown. Before the global slow down our economy in the previous four years was increasing at an annual rate of nine per cent per annum. Last year, because of the global slowdown the growth rate declined to about 6.7 per cent. This year we expect the growth rate to be 6.5 to seven per cent. In two to three years’ time, I am confident that the Indian economy can bounce back to the growth rate of about nine per cent per annum. I say this for many reasons. Our savings rate is about 35 per cent of our GDP. Our investment rate is about 37 per cent of GDP. With these savings rate and investment rates, we can sustain a growth rate of nine per cent without difficulty. With an investment of 37 per cent and the capital output ratio of four is to one we can easily attain the targeted growth rate of nine per cent per annum, which I expect we will do in the next two to three years.
Question: How do you see the situation in Pakistan? In this context what can be done by India together with Russia and other friendly nations to effectively contain international terrorism in your area?
Prime Minister: Russia has been a great friend of our country. It has stood by us through very difficult times. We face in the subcontinent the onset of terrorism aided, inspired and instigated by our neighbour. Russia and India can work together to devise effective counter-terror strategies through coordinating our intelligence and information system. We can help each other because Russia like India has also been the victim of terrorism. We also believe that Russia being a great power can influence the conduct of Pakistan. Our hope is that Russia’s influence will be utilised to convince Pakistan that the strategy of using terror as an instrument of state policy is counter-productive, it runs counter to a policy of good neighbourliness. On our part, if Pakistan territory ceases to be used by terrorists, we see immense opportunities for our two countries to work together in cooperation. There are immense opportunities of expanding trade, investment and technology flow between our two countries.
Question: Mr. Prime Minister, Russia and India have in the past had very large deals but mainly in the defence area. Today we have certain problems, especially with Admiral Gorshkov and other areas, with the defence deals. Are you going to be discussing these and also looking at newer businesses perhaps in the nuclear domain to build nuclear power plants and also enhancing the civilian business between the two countries?
Prime Minister: Cooperation in the field of defence has been a very important aspect of our cooperation with Russia. We have been able to get equipment and technologies from Russia which were not available to us from any other countries. Simultaneously, Russia has played a very important role in helping India to develop its nuclear energy programme, helped us in developing our space programme, and in many areas of science and technology we have actively collaborated with Russia to the enormous advantage of our economy and our polity. When I go to Russia naturally we will review our relationship in its diverse fields, including defence relationship, how we can strengthen, how we can develop new technologies in the field of defence. Of course, Admiral Gorshkov will figure in my discussion and I am confident that we can find practical solutions to the problems that have arisen. Collaboration between our two countries in the field of defence is a very vital aspect of our development. It will stay that way for many years to come. Cooperation in the field of nuclear energy has been a very important pillar of our cooperation with Russia and we have identified now new sites for collaboration with Russia for nuclear power projects. I see enormous opportunities in defence, in science and technology, in atomic energy, in space programme and in the development of our trade and investment relations which have not grown as fast as we both would like them to grow.
Question: Prime Minister, I would like to draw your attention to a smaller problem but because of this it is not less important for my people. President Medvedev is very much particular nowadays about pushing forward new programmes of production of good quality and cheap medicines for our people. We have a very good cooperation with India in this field. What can you say about the prospects of Indian investment in technology and in finance for creation of plants for producing drugs in the territory of Russia?
Prime Minister: Indian pharmaceutical firms have built up enormous capacities in the field of medicines and pharmaceuticals. World over, in generic drugs Indian companies have acquired a name for themselves. I sincerely hope that Russia and India can explore avenues of cooperation whereby Indian pharmaceutical concerns can help to expand the quality healthcare in particular in the supply of generic drugs to the Russian public at affordable costs and prices.
Question: Since the year 2006, in India the programme of national human space flight is being implemented as was proposed by you. How do you estimate the current results of that programme? Is India is cooperating in this field with other countries except Russia?
Prime Minister: Russia is the foremost co-operator and collaborator with India in the development of our space programme. In the spacecraft of Chandrayaan our two countries collaborated. Now we are planning a human space vessel. That also will provide enormous opportunities for cooperation between Russia and India. As of now the cooperation that we have with Russia, or the way we want it to grow with Russia, I think is far in excess of any cooperation that we have or we plan to develop with other countries.
Question: The issue of visas between the two countries still remains difficult to many people from the Russian side and the Indian side. Are you looking at working on this during your trip or in the near future to increase the validity of the visa making it a ten-year multiple visa.
Prime Minister: We are in favour of developing closest possible business and people- to-people contact between our two countries. Whatever obstacles exist in the development of these people-to-people contacts, they should be discussed and effective remedies should be found. If visas are a problem, I think the visa regime needs to be liberalised. We will explore all possibilities to expand cooperation on people-to-people basis.