"Old bonds of friendship that are blossoming into new frontiers of cooperation"- This is how India's Ambassador to Moscow, DB Venkatesh Varma, described the India-Russia relations on the 20th anniversary of the "Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership" signed in October 2000.
In an Interview with DD India, Ambassador Varma talked about different areas of cooperation between India and Russia, including defence, space, energy, and security cooperation. He highlighted the special relation of Prime Minister Modi President Putin; they have met 22 times since 2014. This excellent relationship between the leaders of the two countries is “the most important asset” in this partnership Ambassador Varma said. He added that in this very complex world as the presidents of the two countries are taking care of the relationship in a long-term perspective, this gives the relationship an amount of stability and predictability.
On the state of play in defence cooperation between India and Russia, and the role of Russian manufacturers in the “Make in India” flagship enterprise, Ambassador Varma said:
"The relationship between India and Russia is based on traditional pillars, defence being one of them. Prime Minister Modi has emphasized that this old traditional relationship has to be modified and diversified. One area of diversification in this area is in defence and defence production. More than 60-70% of India’s armed forces draw their equipment from Russia. We have signed an agreement that spare parts for Russian original equipment will be manufactured in India. Furthermore, one of the flagship programmes for the “Make In India” initiative is the agreement between the two countries to manufacture the Kalashnikov Ak-203- one of the most modern assault rifles in the world- which will be manufactured in Kurwa as part of the “Make in India” Programme. This programme will go forward with the active support and participation of the Russian Defence industry. This has been one of the main items of cooperation and the priorities for the future.”
The Ambassador also touched on the BrahMos Russian-Indian joint venture saying:
"There is great interest from third countries to import the BrahMos missile. Joint Ventures is the way to move forward. There is great interest in part of the Russian defence industry to cooperate with the defence industry in India, both in the private sector and the public sector to go forward and establish joint ventures in the future. We expect joint ventures to be established not only to manufacture spare parts but for full weapon systems. The defence production procedures that were announced just a few weeks ago provide a great opportunity for Russian industry, and we see a lot of enthusiasm emerging from the Russian defence industry to come and partner with India.”
He added that the export of the BrahMos missile to third countries is possible in a manner consistent with the political and security interest, and of course, export control procedures of both Russia and India.
The energy sector is another area of cooperation where Russia and India have a long history. According to the Ambassador, India has invested more than $13 billion in Russia in the field of energy and that India is looking for Russian participation in its domestic gas sector, including the use of energy for transportation.
"As we move forward within the coming decade, more of our cars and trucks will run on LNG (liquified natural gas). There is a great interest in Russia with CNG (compressed natural gas). One of the most successful ventures in Delhi has been the conversion of public transport to CNG, and there is a great interest on the Russian side to learn from the experience that India has in this sector," said Ambassador Varma, adding that the same mutual interests apply to the sector of nuclear energy.
Russia has been a longstanding and time-tested partner for India. Development of India-Russia relations has been a key pillar of India's foreign policy. Since the signing of “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership” in October 2000 (during the visit of President Putin), India-Russia ties have acquired a qualitatively new character with enhanced levels of cooperation in almost all areas of the bilateral relationship including political, security, defence, trade and economy, science and technology, and culture. Under the India-Russia Strategic Partnership, several institutionalized dialogue mechanisms operate at both political and official levels to ensure regular interaction and follow up on cooperation activities. During the visit of the Russian President to India in December 2010, the Strategic Partnership was elevated to the level of a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.”