Russian President Vladimir Putin has outlined a vision of a transformed Indo-Russian relationship with a deeper level of partnership. This could see joint development of advanced weapons, cooperation in hi-tech areas ranging from nuclear power to space, and New Delhi benefiting from Moscow’s plans to be Asia’s “reliable” energy supplier.
In an email interview with HT on the eve of his first state visit to India, Putin spoke of New Delhi as a “reliable and time-tested partner” and how this “trust” could be converted into something greater.
This will be Putin’s third meeting with PM Narendra Modi, having met him before at the BRICS summit in Brazil and the G-20 summit in Australia. Putin spoke of his “satisfaction” at the Modi government’s “commitment” to seeking “new promising areas of cooperation”.
Putin outlined steps to strengthen the “privileged strategic partnership”. On the problems Russia faces following the global oil price crash and the impact of Western sanctions, he said “we will devote particular attention to expanding trade and economic links, and boosting mutual investments”.
The closeness of the two countries “allows us to start a gradual transition from the traditional producer-consumer model to joint development and production of advanced weapon systems”. He cited the success of the BrahMos cruise missile and the potential in the fifth-generation fighter project. If military ties are to be transformed, he said, they would be “completely different kind of transformations”.
Putin skirted the issue of Russia’s signing a military agreement with Pakistan, saying the two countries had “held talks” on Russian help for counter-terrorism and anti-drug operations. He insisted this would serve the “long-term interests” of all countries, including India.
“We expect to secure ourselves the role of a reliable energy supplier to Asian markets”, he said and spoke of attracting Indian investment and technology. Citing the successful Sakhalin 1 gas project in Siberia, he said Russian firms were “actively discussing” with OVL the possibility of the Indian state-owned firm’s participation in Arctic oil and gas exploration. Putin poured cold water on proposals for a pipeline between Russia and India, questioning its “commercial feasibility.” He said natural gas was already being shipped.
Listing the “joint strategic projects” he mentioned nuclear power plants, sales of the civilian Sukhoi Superjet 100 and MS-21 aircraft, and introducing the Glonass system – a Russian rival to GPS – to “sectors of the Indian economy.” Putin said he expected deals on a butyl rubber plant, helicopter manufacturing, creating ‘smart city’ and tractor assembly. “Our resources enable us to build up to 25 [nuclear] energy units in India,” he said, and that Russia was awaiting land to be allotted for a new reactor outside the Kudankulam cluster.
Bilateral trade between India and Russia had fallen 10% to $ 9 billion in the past year. “It is important to reverse this trend”. Putin expressed confidence in the resilience of Indo-Russian relations. “Regardless of political and public leaders, our countries remained reliable partners in deepening our multifaceted bilateral cooperation,” he said.