Putin's visit to India and Delhi-Moscow Relations
It was August 1971, when I was posted at Ankara, Turkey that one evening as soon as I and others from the Indian Embassy entered a big reception, we were very warmly, happily and with cheers engulfed and welcomed by a group of diplomats and their wives from the Soviet Union, and other Socialist states. The Indo–Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation was signed that day between India and the Soviet Union .The Treaty specified mutual strategic cooperation. The treaty was a significant and a strategic deviation from India's previous position of non-alignment in the Cold War and as the prelude to war with Pakistan for Bangladesh .It was a key strategic development in a situation of increasing Sino-American ties and American pressure to browbeat India.
We felt very exhilarated and reassured especially because of the building up of the tensions between India and Pakistan over the atrocities and killings of Bengalis by brutal occupation by Pakistani armed forces mostly staffed by Punjabis and some Pushtuns. Ten Million refugees had been forced out of East Pakistan in to India and the US President Nixon and Prof Kissinger were calling Indira Gandhi names.
( When the war was over , and Bangladesh became independent , wife of a Turkish newspaper editor in Ankara , cheesed off because of US opposition to use of NATO supplied arms in their stand off against Greece , another NATO member , complained at a reception , about Washington's attitude . The Russian ambassador Gurbiyakov 's wife , a trained engineer herself , retorted ,'You should chose your allies carefully' )
Linguistically, I might have felt more at home with the American and the British diplomats, but I could sense that they were always hostile to Indian interests, whether it was 1948, 1962, 1965 and otherwise. Even before 1971, wherever I was posted in Egypt or Algiers there were the best of relations between the embassies of India and Russia, apart from our good relations with the diplomats of Egypt, Algeria, Yugoslavia and other non-aligned countries.
Our interests were never of any value to the American elite with their belief in US exceptionalism and entitlement, as if they are always entitled to rule and everyone else must submit to their dictates. They believe everyone has a price and many Indians have. After a little while it was difficult to maintain any sensible conversation with the Americans , they expecting that we should fall in line with their line of argument which was and still remains quite crude ,selfish and even uncivilized .
While I did not expect a full some and warmhearted coverage in the Indian media and on TV channels, which is controlled and dictated to by robber barons and rich fat cats , the coverage of Putin's visit was disgraceful . Under Turkish Pres Recep Erdogan, there is open attack against those who oppose his dictates. But the Turkish media still keeps protesting writing against him and suffering if necessary. Turkish government's attitude to media has been criticised by international independent media organisations, but in terms of transparency and freedom of media Indian and Turkish media are very low down almost at the same level. In India the fat cats control the writings even for its headlines .Indian media has been reduced to pressitutes, pressigolos and editors as keepers of the House.
So I was not surprised but disgusted with the way so little coverage was given to Putin's visit. Not only 1971 and later, Moscow will remain a friend. It is a simple strategic fact of life .At some stage in future, there might be tensions between Moscow and Beijing and certainly the way we are going there could be between India and China. We will always need Russia as a friend.
I remain amazed at total lack of strategic understanding by the usual suspects who keep on crowding so-called national TV channels and worrying what will happen when USA leaves Afghanistan. It might as well. Some of these worthies were complaining that Russia has signed a military agreement with Pakistan in their zero-sum game.
Let it be very clear to people without an iota of intelligence or of strategic understanding that the peace can be brought to Afghanistan, not by the Americans, but political and military support to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan by neighbors, to excise the cancer of terrorism, which has been created and spread around the world by U.S.-led West and by unearned fabulous riches of the corporate house of Saudi princes and sheikdoms in the region. China, India, Russia, Iran have suffered the most and want peace. We cannot have peace ,development and prosperity with an enflamed Pakistan and Afghanistan. The major role to bring peace, security and progress would then be played only by Russia, China, India, Iran coming together to help Pakistan and Afghanistan out of the morass created by money grabbing bloodthirsty so-called civilized West. Financially by China's many Trillions of dollar savings, before the unsupported Green back loses its reserve currency status, a ban on the world.
I reproduce two pieces below on Putin's visit, one by Sandhya Jain, a well-known columnist for the Pioneer, which of course is considered to be an organ of BJP. She is the daughter of very eminent journalist late Girilal Jain who edited the Indian Express. The other article is written by Kanwal Sibal, former Foreign Secretary and also Amb to Moscow and deputy Amb to Washington.
K.Gajendra Singh 17 December, 2014.Delhi.
FRIEND THEN, NOW, AND IN THE COMING YEARS
Russian President Vladimir Putin's brief visit to India last week was a rewarding climax to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's international outreach this year, deepening ties forged at the Brics and other summits, satisfying some national security needs, and aligning with Mr Modi's signature project, Make in India.
The visit was closely monitored in Washington, which expressed disapproval at Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov's 'unofficial' arrival with the Russian delegation. India understands Ukraine's critical importance to Russia, including the takeover of Crimea. Mr Aksyonov could not have signed a memorandum with the Indian-Crimean Partnership group, to boost trade with the Black Sea region, without a nod from Mr Modi. As for the new nuclear and defence deals with Moscow, an American spokesperson said this was "not time for business as usual with Russia".
Washington's unhappiness at India's indifference to America's game-plan in Ukraine while dealing with Russia seems counter-intuitive, given the first Obama Administration's bias towards Pakistan. In 2010, President Barack Obama visited India after appointing Kashmiri separatist Farooq Kathwari as member of the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Unconfirmed reports say Mr Kathwari accompanied Mr Obama to India; he was spotted in Srinagar. Mr Kathwari founded the Kashmir Study Group in 1996 to promote an independent Kashmir. He supports Islamist groups and in 2004, spoke at the annual conference of the Islamic Society of North America, listed as an 'unindicted conspirator' in the successful prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation in America's largest terror funding trial.
Mr Putin arrived in India soon after France, under US pressure, "indefinitely suspended" the delivery of two fully-paid-for Mistral helicopter-carriers to Russia. Given the strong US-Pakistan and China-Pakistan axis, India cannot neglect a country whose veto power in the Security Council has protected her interests. New Delhi will always be wary that Washington can restrict access to civil-military technologies in pursuit of its political goals. Moscow, in contrast, has given India access to technologies no other country was willing to supply, most notably help in building the nuclear-powered submarine, Arihant.
Moscow is unlikely to levy sanctions against India that could result in choking supplies of spare parts at critical moments. New Delhi remembers the Western sanctions after the nuclear tests of 1998, and has resisted the US-led sanctions against Russia. As the joint statement noted, "India and Russia oppose economic sanctions that do not have the approval of the United Nations Security Council". Russia has reiterated support for India's candidature for permanent membership of the Security Council and full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Both sides favour a security architecture in the Asia-Pacific that respects the legitimate interests of all states of the region.
Both nations have similar views on Iran, Libya and Syria; both have stakes in the stability of a non-Taliban regime in Kabul. While New Delhi is anxious that Afghanistan does not house terrorists, Moscow wants to crush the drug trade. Expressing grief over lives lost in recent terror acts in Jammu & Kashmir and Chechnya, both called for global resolve to deal with international terrorism "without double standards or selectivity"; urging an end to all safe havens for terrorists, and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism by the 70th Anniversary Summit of the UN. The ongoing hostage crisis in Australia underlines the urgency for an international protocol.
Both nations would cooperate with Iran and China to strengthen Afghanistan, which is vital for the development of trade and energy in Central Asia. India is sourcing weapons from Moscow to supply to Kabul. In pursuit of larger goals, India has ignored Russia's decision to sell helicopters to Pakistan, on account of Moscow's need to counter Western attempts to throttle its economy. Russia's two gigantic energy deals with China, and one with Turkey after cancelling the South Stream pipeline, circumvent the Western pincer and eventually affect Europe.
As Mr Modi's economic priorities harmonised with Mr Putin's 'pivot to Asia', the visit yielded 20 high profile deals worth $100 billion, including $40 billion in nuclear energy, $50 billion in crude oil and gas, and $10 billion in various sectors, including defence, fertilisers, and outer space. In a major coup for the diamond processing industry, Russia's Alrosa, the world's largest diamond mining company, will sell rough diamonds directly to India.
Under the nuclear pact, Russia will build 12 new nuclear reactors over the next 20 years at Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu, and at another yet-to-be-identified site. Russia is the first nation to accept India's tough nuclear liability law, though this has also led to cost escalation, from $1 billion per unit for the two units constructed at Kudankulam, to $3 billion each for the new reactors. Besides the highest safety standards in the world, the deal includes manufacture of equipment and components in India. Russia also reiterated support for India's efforts to secure full membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime and Wassenaar Arrangement.
The decision to produce state-of-the-art multi-role helicopters in Indian factories to cut costs and time overruns is another triumph for the Make in India programme. Besides kick-starting India's moribund defence manufacturing, the deal (to be finalised soon) gives India the right to export the helicopters to third countries. Russia may also accept India's request for manufacturing spares and components for Russian defence equipment in India.
Several projects are expected to roll out in the oil and natural gas sector, including exploration and production in new oil and gas fields in the Russian Federation, and third countries. India will get liquefied natural gas from Russia, while the feasibility of a gas pipeline to India is being seriously explored. Other areas of cooperation include smart cities and freight corridors; the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation for trade in goods and services; and enhancement of bilateral trade through the International North South Corridor Project which will sharply curtail transit time and freight costs. Russia may invest in the ambitious Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and telecom, power and roads.
Bilateral trade will be in national currencies, with an ambitious target of $30 billion by 2025. While lacking the high drama associated with Mr Modi's visits to America, Japan and Australia, President Putin's visit has been the most fruitful of the new regime's international engagements, garnering deals that will generate direct employment as the projects come up and stimulating the rise of ancillary industries and self-employment prospects.
Business as usual
- Russia remains a key strategic partner for India
President Vladimir Putin's visit has served an important purpose at this juncture, that of underlining politically that Russia remains a key strategic partner for India. With perceived stagnation in India-Russia ties, improving India-US ties and a sharp deterioration in US-Russia relations, for us it was opportune to signal this internationally.
In perspective, the listlessness in India-Russia ties is not new. Since the Soviet Union's demise, India-Russia economic exchanges have remained low, arms trade has excessively dominated bilateral ties, commercialization of Russian technologies has not succeeded except in the nuclear sector, educational ties have been limited, and people-to-people contacts, barring the rising numbers of Goa-bound Russians, have not expanded. Nonetheless, we have persevered with regular annual summits since 2000 when Putin took power and in 2013 declared a "special and privileged strategic partnership".
It is more in contrast with the upsurge of our ties with the United States of America and mounting exchanges with China that India's relations with Russia seem sluggish. The India-US relationship has acquired a positive strategic content after the nuclear deal in particular; our dialogue agenda has become highly diversified, the educational and people-to-people ties have grown, and economic exchanges are now touching $100 billion. China has become our largest trade partner in goods and now visualizes sizeable investments in India.
For India, the relationship with Russia is larger than the sum total of its parts. It remains valuable because of high levels of mutual trust, Russia's historic contribution to building India's defence capabilities and giving us access to some highly advanced technologies. Russia has not pitted our neighbours against us. Our geopolitical interests and views on principles that should govern international relations are largely convergent. For India to have a stable and reliable relationship with at least one major power centre is important.
For these reasons, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been effusive about our Russia relationship during Putin's visit, underlining that Russia has been a "pillar of strength for India's development, security and international relations", that we have a "friendship of unmatched mutual confidence, trust and goodwill" and a "strategic partnership that is incomparable in content". To allay some concerns, he has affirmed pointedly that changes in international relations will not affect "the importance of this relationship and its unique place in India's foreign policy".
In defence supplies, with Russia riled at losing out in competitive bidding in some recent cases, Modi conveyed the important message that even as India's options for defence cooperation have increased today, "Russia will remain our most important defence partner". While discussing many new defence projects with Putin, Modi has asked for the alignment of India-Russia defence relations with "India's own priorities, including 'Make in India'". Russia's offer "to fully manufacture in India one of its most advanced helicopters", which Modi has said will be pursued quickly, would suggest that the project for light utility helicopters that India badly needs to replace the French-licensed Cheetah and Chetak helicopters could, after two failed tenders, be now awarded to Russia. That Putin responded "very positively" to Modi's proposal that Russia locate manufacturing facilities in India for spares and components for defence equipment it has supplied is noteworthy in the context of persistent complaints by India of Russia's product support deficiencies, though the timelines for resolving this nagging issue remain unclear.
Russia has already an edge over other contenders with regard to civilian nuclear cooperation with India, which it wants to conserve. It has been agreed that Russia will build "at least" 10 more reactors in India beyond the existing two at Kudankulam: six in total at Kudankulam and six at another site to be identified expeditiously, with the important proviso of manufacture of equipment and components in India, joint extraction of natural uranium and production of nuclear fuel. Russia's pitch for 20 to 25 reactors was too ambitious when the outlook on nuclear energy is uncertain and technological advances may affect energy choices in the future.
Modi was right to flag our disappointment at India-Russia collaboration in the hydrocarbon sector, despite Russia being a top producer of hydrocarbons and India a top importer. The outlook has improved with an agreement that envisages joint exploration and production of hydrocarbons in the Russian Arctic shelf, long-term LNG supplies (to begin in 2017 or latest by 2021), as well as a hydrocarbon pipeline system connecting the two countries, even though Putin himself doubts its commercial feasibility. A new dimension has been added to energy ties with the entry of the private sector, signified by the memorandum of understanding between Essar and Rosneft for long-term supply of Russian crude oil.
Expanding the weak economic relationship to give ballast to the strategic partnership has remained a challenge. Two-way trade in goods and services at US $30 billion by 2025 has been targeted this time, with mutual investments of over US $15 billion each way by that date. The 1994 agreement for protection and promotion of bilateral investments will be renegotiated. A Russian company will complete one of the world's biggest butyl rubber producing plants in Gujarat by 2016. Putin seeks Indian involvement in Russia's pharmaceutical industry, in fertilizer production and in the coal sector. He has offered Russia's civil aviation industry support to India, specifically the Sukhoi Superjet 100 and MC-21 aircraft. Measures to increase the share of direct diamond exports from Russia to India have been discussed. Russia is being invited to invest in infrastructure projects like the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor and freight corridors. In the area of joint manufacturing of high-technology products, the initiative of establishing a joint investment fund of $2 billion between Rusnano and suitable Indian partners is noteworthy. Significantly, in the context of the role of the US dollar in global trade and US-led economic sanctions, the two sides will "encourage payments in national currencies for bilateral trade".
Alluding to US/EU sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, the joint statement says that India and Russia oppose economic sanctions that do not have the approval of the United Nations security council. Russia has reiterated its support for India's permanent membership of the UNSC, its Shanghai Cooperation Organization membership, as well as that of Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime and the Wassenaar Agreement. While Russia avoids accusing Pakistan by name for supporting terrorism, the formulation on terrorism in the joint statement is satisfactory, with the two leaders hoping that "all safe havens and sanctuaries for terrorists will be wiped out without delay...." In this broad context, one hopes that Putin will review the decision on Russian arms sales to Pakistan. His position, expressed to PTI before the visit, that Russia's "possible assistance" to Pakistan is "aimed at improving effectiveness of counter-terrorism and anti-drug operations", which "serves the long-term interests of all countries of the region, including India", is reminiscent of specious US arguments in favour of arms supplies to Pakistan.
Putin has declared that he is highly satisfied with his visit and its results, while Modi has stated that the summit had reinforced his conviction in the extraordinary value and strength of the India-Russia partnership. With inopportune US statements before and after Putin's visit cautioning against it, for India it has been "business as usual" with Russia.