Indian ambassador: we are determined to develop the closest relations with Russia
The new Indian ambassador in Moscow Pankaj Saran said in an interview with RIA Novosti on the prospects of cooperation between Russia and India in the energy and intent to New Delhi to sign an association agreement with the Eurasian Union
India is set to develop a very close relationship with Russia, in the current conditions of the country simply can not afford to ignore each other, according to the new Ambassador of India in Moscow Pankaj Saran. In his first interview to Russian media, he told the special correspondent of RIA Novosti Pauline Chernitsov whether New Delhi to expand exports of agricultural products to Russia, what are the prospects of cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector, but also said that New Delhi is set to sign an association agreement with the Eurasian Union.
- Mr. Saran, this is your first interview after his appointment as ambassador to Russia. How do you assess the prospects of tenure? And in general, you see the prospects of development of bilateral relations, especially in view of the results of the last summit, held in December?
- Relations between Russia and India - are special, unique and multi-vector - the test of time. They cover almost all areas, and New Delhi is set to develop relations with its strategic partner. We have already managed to do many things: the last Russian-Indian summit, when in December 2015 met our leaders Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin, has been extremely successful and culminated in a number of agreements signed.
Just a couple of days will be a month of my stay in Russia, in Moscow. I began my career in Moscow in 1984. Then it was the Soviet Union, of course, it was a completely different country, a different time. And, in general, throughout the world, the situation was completely different. And now, having returned here after 32 years old, I want to say that for me it is an honor and a privilege. And I can see that much has changed in Russia, it is for the economy, culture and influence in the world - around the same time, Russia has increased significantly. Russia is our strategic privileged partner, and I am very happy that now I am an ambassador in such an important country for us. While serving as the Ambassador of India, I will strive to develop these relationships and ensure implementation of decisions.
As you know, we in India are now the new government, this government sold themselves to maintain the close, the best relations with Russia. For me personally is a huge inspiration to be here as an ambassador and to do everything possible to promote these relations further. We know that there is great potential and opportunities for further rapprochement between India and Russia, and I think that there should be a greater role in the younger generation.
In cooperation between our countries, we will first try to bring people together. Russia has a very rich history, culture and civilization. The same can be said about India. In Russia, it was very much written about India, it has inspired Russian intellectuals. And that is why we must continue to work done. And in any case, neither India nor Russia should not neglect each other, they can not afford it.
But the most important thing in this relationship - to create and increase contacts between people.
- Do you see the prospects for the growth of trade with the Russian Federation in the coming year? Due to some sectors can be achieved a breakthrough?
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin set a goal to increase bilateral trade to $ 30 billion by 2025. Both sides intend to expand bilateral economic and trade cooperation, and we are working to achieve this goal. We will do everything possible for that. We have identified seven priority areas, such as pharmaceuticals, jewelry, technical equipment and machinery, oil and gas, textiles and garments, agricultural sphere - all of them are potential sectors for cooperation to help achieve the stated goals.
- Are there any current negotiations to increase the export of Indian meat and dairy products in Russia?
- India has already started to export bufflo meat in Russia, where the product has been well received. With regard to the expansion of supply, we are the largest exporter and, of course, everything depends on the demand in Russia. I am sure that if there is demand, our exporters will be happy to increase their supply. If need be, we are ready to export more.
Also, we are now in the process of negotiations to obtain the necessary permits to begin exports of dairy products
- At what stage are the negotiations to expand the settlements in national currencies between Russia and India? As in India evaluated the proposal of the Russian Federation on mutual national currencies within the BRICS group? Will this measure is to reduce the risk associated with dollar payments?
- The organization of settlements using national currencies of the BRICS looks promising. And now the Russian and Indian companies have shown some interest in the implementation of trade transactions using national currencies. There is already a mechanism that both parties are free to use. In addition to this we have set up a joint working group to develop a road map to ensure interstate settlements in the Russian-Indian trade.
The two parties shall consult with representatives of business and industry in order to reach a broad consensus on this issue.
- Presidency of the BRICS in 2016 goes from Russia to India, which plans to develop the priorities of New Delhi as part of its presidency and how they will contribute to the development of bilateral relations?
- India is looking forward to working as chairman of the BRICS. We highly appreciate the results of the Russian presidency in BRICS. And now conducting consultations with the Russian side in order to keep the continuity and not to lose the pace of work, and to find new areas of cooperation.
We have already announced the theme of the Indian presidency - find responsible general and collective decisions. We see an important association BRICS countries, whose influence is important for the whole world. In this respect, in a large number of multilateral initiatives were carried out during the Russian presidency.
This year is the second time we will host the BRICS summit, the last time it was in 2012. But since then, the BRICS organization became stronger and, of course, increased the level of interaction.
BRICS member countries are among the largest economies in the world: if we combine the economy of Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa, we will get a large percentage of the global economy. From this point of view we are going to approach the challenges of our presidency of the BRICS: how the organization can contribute to the overall global economy.
We also understand that within the organization there are other areas of cooperation. This includes the challenges facing the organization, such as terrorism, security.
- Will there be somehow reflected in the agenda of the Summit and the Presidency theme of joint efforts in countering terrorism?
- You know, I would like today to share two points, two aspects. The first aspect - the presidency of India in BRICS is an extended process. Another aspect - the summit itself, where will meet the heads of our states. We are ready to take into account in the preparation and various foundations of our cooperation: economics, finance, terrorism.
Of course, the issues of terrorism and the fight against terrorism will be given some attention, we will concentrate on this.
With regard to the summit, then, of course, when our leaders meet, they discuss all the most important moments of what is happening in the world. And this will apply not only to the BRICS, but in general the whole situation in the world. Of course, it is very difficult to assume what will be the world situation at that time. But the fact that this issue will be discussed, no doubt.
I am sure that one of the major emphases, which will focus on during the summit of BRICS, will counter international terrorism. Terrorism - is a serious problem, and the BRICS countries have the ability and capacity to counter terrorism, there is a possibility to maintain peace and stability in the world. So I think that when our leaders meet, you will be sure to take this opportunity to discuss this issue.
- Does the question now being worked Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to India in preparation for the summit of the BRICS?
- Of course, we plan to organize a series of ministerial visits and meetings. And in preparation for him, we will consult with Russia. I'm sure when we will schedule a meeting of foreign ministers of the BRICS, be sure to send an invitation to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Mr. Sergey Lavrov.
The exact dates yet, because we are still working on the schedule of events of his presidency. But I can say that we will stick to the traditions of the BRICS and we will take advice BRICS partners at different levels. This may be the level of deputy ministers, ministerial level.
As for the dates, as I said, they we have not yet determined. Now we are no longer working on the logistical details of meetings at different levels. And, of course, on the logistics of the summit.
- How are the negotiations on the free trade zone of India and the Eurasian Economic Union? Can we expect that this year will be an agreement on comprehensive economic cooperation in the format of India - the Eurasian Economic Union?
- To study the prospects of establishing a free trade area a joint working group was established between India and the Eurasian Union. Research is being conducted, and we look forward to their early conclusion. After we examine the report will begin substantive consultations on the FTA - a comprehensive agreement on economic cooperation. India would like to achieve association with the Eurasian Union.
Now it is very difficult to identify any time frame, because at the moment held technical talks. But it is very important to understand that at the political level, the parties agreed to facilitate association of India with the Eurasian Union. This was agreed during the summit of the heads of the leaders of our states.
We are negotiating with Russia, as well as with other countries (member of the Eurasian Union - ed.). India is ready to sign an agreement on free trade zone. But, of course, when this kind of agreements are signed, it is necessary to take into account the fact that it is mutually beneficial for both parties, and take into account the wishes and requirements of both parties.
- Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that in the tripartite meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Russia-India-China may be held in April, if you have more specific information about the date?
- The sides still agree on a mutually acceptable date, but we are ready to organize this meeting as soon as possible. Now we are in contact on this issue with Russia, because it will all be held in Moscow. I think we shall sound the date only after consultations end. But once again I want to say that yes, we are ready for this meeting.
With regard to the agenda of the meeting, it will be determined after mutual consultation. We try to do everything so that this meeting took place is so significant and productive as possible. When Russia, India and China work together, this contributes to world stability and economic development at both the regional and global level.
- At what stage is the study of the Russian leader's visit to New Delhi?
- The leaders of Russia and India, there every year, and sometimes more often - on the basis of the intensity and high level of our bilateral relations. Cycle of preparatory meetings which are usually held a few months before this summit, has already begun.
- Previously reported intention of India to enter into a new contract for the supply of Mi-17V-5 and purchase another 48 such helicopters. Go there already negotiations? When can we expect the signing of the contract?
- Moscow has already made deliveries of Mi-17V-5 helicopters under the previous contract (151 machine). Who started the procedure of approval of the new party supply of these helicopters, and upon completion we expect to sign a contract.
At present it is difficult to say when the next batch will be delivered: we expect this, and experts are working on the issue. But it is difficult to identify any specific time frame.
- That is a purely technical consultations and the parties do not have any significant differences?
- Yes, in general, I do not see any major problems (with a new contract - Ed.).
- Do begun negotiations for the purchase of India's air defense systems S-400 "Triumph"? When do you expect to sign a contract?
- Our military-technical cooperation with Russia has a long history and covers various sectors. Now Moscow and New Delhi are discussing several options of weapons systems, and the sides are working on the completion of the talks fruitful.
- Are Indian Airlines is considering buying Sukhoi Superjet (SSJ100) aircraft? If so, about how many can there be?
- Indian companies held a series of talks on the issue with the Russian side. India is one of the fastest growing markets of civil aviation in the world, so we have a serious need in this area, and Russia has the necessary experience. In any case, the negotiations will be conducted on a commercial basis, and I hope for their specific outcomes.
Sukhoi is in talks with two private Indian companies, and this is purely a commercial matter between the supplier, which is Sukhoi, and two private companies. So we just have to wait, when a decision is made.
Based on this, I can say that the Indian government is not involved in these negotiations. In any case, I would be happy if the two sides can reach an agreement. But since this offer, there is the private companies take into account the factors that are important to them, and on the basis of the concluded agreements. Now negotiations are still underway. I just want to say is that this is a good Sukhoi Superjet plane, it has proven itself in the international market.
- When the expected closing of the transaction for the purchase of a stake in India's ONGC "Vankorneft" in New Delhi? Could this happen in the course of the meeting of the Russian-Indian intergovernmental commission, as previously reported by some media outlets?
- Oil and gas sector is one of the priorities in the framework of cooperation between Russia and India. Now we are discussing the many opportunities for interaction on extraction and processing, transportation and sale of hydrocarbons, as well as supply of equipment and technologies for their exploration.
In the course of the last Russian-Indian summit in December 2015, the parties agreed on the acquisition of the Indian company ONGS Videsh Limited 15 per cent stake in the company "Vankorneft".
With regard to the inter-governmental commission, as you know, we have two of them - military and economic, the issue is related to the economic. Negotiations are underway with the company "Rosneft" and Indian enterprises. These negotiations are going well and I am confident that the prospects for concluding a good agreement.
However, there is also a complex internal issues that need to be addressed. All I can say is that we are optimistic about the conclusion of this agreement, and hope that it will happen this year. But when and how - it will be decided two sides.
- If we talk separately about the timing of the intergovernmental commissions, when will the military and when - economic?
- The current annual summit will be held in India, and as usual, according to tradition, it goes at the end of the year. With regard to the date, we have not decided yet, because we have literally just finished the previous summit - a very successful and one of the most fruitful. But before spending the next summit, we need to hold preparatory meetings. Usually these meetings are held in the months before the summit, and it gives an opportunity for ministers to properly prepare and provide the necessary information to heads of our states.
As I said before, the date of the summit, we have not yet determined, but we know that, to the summit was a success, it is necessary to prepare well.
Now we have to schedule such meetings to begin the process as early as possible. We will try to build a schedule so that both sides had enough time to prepare well.
- Earlier, media reported that Indian Oil Corp and Oil India are in talks with "Rosneft" to buy nearly 30 percent stake in the field TAAs-Yuryakh in Eastern Siberia. Can the Indian side to confirm this? At what stage are the negotiations?
- We consider several options transactions. However, it should wait for the official announcement in advance not to give publicity details of the negotiations.
- When may the signing of a general agreement between Rosatom and the Indian side about the construction of new nuclear power plants in India blocks?
- Russia and India have approved the construction of a road map for the next 20 years, 12 nuclear reactors. We have already put into operation the first unit of NPP "Kudankulam", and is expected to the second unit will also soon be launched. The General Framework Agreement for the construction of the third and fourth block is already decorated. We are currently negotiating for the development of the General Framework Agreement for the fifth and sixth unit (NPP "Kudankulam") and we want to complete the process as soon as possible. During the last annual summit in December 2015, India's Ministry of Energy and Rosatom approved the road map for the localization of production in India is designed in Russian reactors. We believe this is another positive step in the development of our cooperation in the nuclear sphere and politics with a "to do in India."
- Mr. Ambassador, I have to ask you about an event that is widely expected to happen later this year. We are talking about the end of India's accession to the SCO. Do you expect that at the summit in Uzbekistan point will be delivered?
- The decision to launch the process of adoption in India was taken at the summit of the organization in Ufa in 2015 as a full member of the SCO. We hope for a speedy completion of this process and the entry of India into the SCO is already at the upcoming summit.