Indian Ambassador to Russia Pundi Srinivasan Raghavan: Indian-Russia relations are not affected by external developments
Indian Ambassador to Russia Pundi Srinivasan Raghavan has given an interview to Interfax ahead of the BRICS and SCO summit in Ufa in which he speaks about India‘s attitude to the two organization, as well as bilateral Indian-Russian ties.Question: To what extent and why India is interested in the BRICS format? Does India consider this format a means of countering the attempts made by some Western countries to even further consolidate their leading position in global politics?
Answer: In recent years, BRICS has emerged as an important multi-lateral forum for consultation, coordination and cooperation on contemporary global issues of mutual interest. The agenda of BRICS meetings has considerably widened over the years to encompass issues such as international terrorism, climate change, food and energy security, global economic trends, sustainable development and WTO deliberations. We have convergences in the position of BRICS countries on the elements of a democratic, multi-polar world order.
BRICS brings together five major economies, comprising approximately 40% of the world’s human resources and about 25% of the world’s GDP. Together, they constitute a global economic powerhouse. Also, there is considerable potential for strengthening intra-BRICS cooperation in areas like online education, affordable healthcare platforms, virtual BRICS University, small and medium enterprises, tourism, youth exchanges and science and technology. We hope to see forward movement in these areas in BRICS 2015.
Therefore, we can say BRICS today plays an important role in global politics and economics.
Q.: What is India‘s attitude towards the fact that Russia is under sanctions and partly isolated over the situation in Ukraine?
A.: India has enjoyed a close relationship of friendship, trust and mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia over many decades. We term our relationship today as a special and privileged strategic partnership. Our relations are not affected by external developments.
Regarding Ukraine, we support an end to violence and conflict in that country, and support diplomatic efforts to resolve all issues in a way that meets the aspirations of all sections of Ukraine’s population and in harmony with the legitimate interests of all countries in the region.
Q.: Does Delhi plan to switch to national currencies when handling settlements with Russia? When might this happen?
A.: Answer: India and Russia have been discussing trade in national currencies as an initiative for significantly increasing volume of bilateral trade. Our Central Banks have set up a Joint Working Group to work out the modalities. There have been talks between the EXIM Bank of India and the Vnesheconombank of Russia for a guarantees cooperation arrangement, towards facilitating loans in local currencies for Indian and Russian companies seeking to invest in each others’ countries. Such arrangements could boost mutual investment.
Q.: India and Pakistan are close to joining the SCO. Why is Delhi interested in this organization? Can the membership of India and Pakistan in this organization assist the further normalization of relations between the two countries?
A.: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an important regional mechanism for cooperation in the areas of economy, regional security, counter-terrorism, energy, transport connectivity and culture. India has been actively associated with SCO as an observer since 2005 and we have stated our willingness to play a larger role in the Organization as a full member.
As for your question relating to our relations with Pakistan, India seeks peace and friendship with all its neighbors on the basis of mutually beneficial economic cooperation and mutual sensitivity to core concerns. We follow a bilateral approach to developing such relations and do not bring them into multilateral organizations.
Q.: Is there an opportunity to consolidate effort within the SCO framework given the growing terrorist threat in Afghanistan?
A.: As we have already mentioned, SCO is an important mechanism in many areas including counter-terrorism and regional security. The organization can play a positive role in addressing regional security concerns in its neighborhood.
Q.: India and the United States have recently renewed the bilateral military and technological cooperation agreement. Can this have a negative impact on Russian-Indian interaction in the military and technological sphere?
A.: The relations between India and Russia have always been characterized by long-standing friendship and mutual trust. Russia is an important strategic partner of India and will remain so. It is our leading partner in military-technical cooperation and the only country with which India has an Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation headed by the defense ministers. Our military-technical cooperation is intensive and multi-faceted and is not impacted by other bilateral relationships.
Q.: Is Delhi concerned about the development of military and technological cooperation between Russia and Pakistan?
A.: As India’s Ambassador to Russia, my focus is on India-Russia bilateral relations. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on Russia’s relations with third countries.
Q.: Is Delhi interested in developing energy cooperation with Russia? Russia‘s Zarubezhneft Company earlier planned to increase its activities in India. Has the Indian side made any practical steps in this direction?
A.: Russia is a major energy producer and India is one of the faster growing energy consumers. Obviously we would like to see an expansion of energy cooperation with Russia. Oil India Limited (OIL) has signed a [memorandum of understanding] MOU with M/s. Zarubezhneft, Russia during the India-Russia Annual Summit on December 11, 2014 at New Delhi. The two sides are exploring specific projects in which they can collaborate for joint research and evaluation. At the annual Summit in December 2014, both the countries placed special emphasis on identifying specific projects for cooperation in hydrocarbon sector. Our major oil and gas companies are in touch with Russian oil and gas companies towards this goal.