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India is Russia's trusted friend, says Zubkov

Russian Prime Minister Victor Zubkov says the issue of low-level of bilateral economic trade and interaction should not be "dramatised" as indicators of quantity are not decisive.

world Updated: Feb 10, 2008 15:05 IST

Describing India as a "trusted friend," Russian Prime Minister Victor Zubkov has said the issue of low-level of bilateral economic trade and interaction should not be "dramatised" as indicators of quantity are not decisive.

"Your country is perceived here as a trusted friend ... and as in Russia we have a saying: 'an old friend is better than two new ones'," Zubkov said in an interview to PTI before leaving on his maiden three-day visit to India beginning tomorrow.

During his visit, the Russian Prime Minister is scheduled to inaugurate the 'Year of Russia' in New Delhi and hold high- profile talks with the Indian leaders to cement bilateral ties in all the spheres of human activities.

"Our nations sustain an active political dialogue. In the beginning of last year President of the Russian Federation visited India as the guest of honour at the Republic Day celebrations.

"In November 2007 my colleague Manmohan Singh visited Russia on an official visit. My this visit to India is the continuation of this dialogue. So the issues of discussions are not few," Zubkov said noting the 'multi-faceted' character of the bilateral cooperation.

Responding to a question about the low level of bilateral economic interaction and trade Zubkov said that there was no need to dramatise the situation.

"Why should the situation be dramatised like this? The indicators of quantity are not decisive. Main thing is quality. And from this point everything is fine. Significant portion of trade consists of engineering and hi-tech goods," he underscored. (More)

The Russian Prime Minister, who is leading a large business delegation to New Delhi for the second Indo-Russian Trade and Investment Forum to be held within the framework of his visit, noted an upward trend in the trade in recent years.

He expressed confidence that it will further grow with efforts of 'traditional structures' like Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation and new mechanism like Joint Task Force.

"The joint efforts are already yielding positive results. If the bilateral trade turnover in 2005 was USD 3.1 billion, in 2007 it is expected to cross USD 5 billion mark. This way the trade in two years has grown by more than one-and-half times, while the growth in 2007 was 30 per cent. Now we face the task of sustaining this tempo of annual growth and achieve the goal of USD 10 billion by the year 2010," Zubkov said.

Noting the successful cooperation in the offshore Sakhalin-1 energy project, Zubkov, who will head Russia's natural gas monopoly "Gazprom" after the "re-formatting" of state power in the wake of March 2 presidential polls, said that there was no hurdles for the Indian business joining new hydro-carbons energy projects.

"We do not see any hurdles on the way of Indian business joining the implementation of some new projects in this field, as long as there is a wish (on Indian side)," Zubkov stressed.

He observed that Russian and Indian oil majors 'Rosneft' and ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) highly evaluate their experience of cooperation in Sakhalin-1 project, which since the beginning of production in 2005 has already shipped 28 tankers with 2.5 million tonne crude to India and have agreed to continue cooperation, including in third countries.

Although the Russians see India as a trusted friend and respect Indians as hardworking and gentle people, Zubkov believes that people in both countries lack the knowledge about the present day realities.

"In spite of all the mutual affection, we clearly lack the knowledge about the modern day realities of the two nations," he said expressing confidence that the 'Year of Russia' to be inaugurated in India during his visit and 'Year of India' in Russia in 2009 will contribute to fill this gap.

Within the framework of 'Year of Russia' to be opened by Zubkov with a gala show at New Delhi's 'Purana Quila' on February 12, about 150 events, including cultural festivals, exhibitions and seminars, are to be held in major cities of India.

"We hope that the implementation of this programme will help the citizens of India to get a better and wider picture of today's Russia and her achievements and provide an opportunity for the development and expansion of people-to-people contacts, and give a new fillip to multi-faceted Russian-Indian strategic partnership," Zubkov said.

"You know that a lot of my compatriots dream of visiting India. I hope that rise in the living standard of our citizens and development technologies will help fulfil this dream. It's always a pleasure to be a guest of real friends.... With these feelings I am beginning my visit to India," Zubkov said.