Interview with Ambassador of India to Russia H.E. Mr. Kanwal Sibal.
How do you assess India-Russia bilateral relations? India and Russia are strategic partners, in which strategic areas we have been cooperating?
H.E. Mr. Kanwal Sibal: We have a strategic partnership. It is a multi-faceted substantive relationship, which has shown remarkable stability and continuity despite great changes on the international scene. There is a national consensus in two countries that strong friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation is in the interest of both. Our cooperation covers various areas such as military-technical cooperation, science and technology, atomic energy, space, culture and trade and economic ties. The deep-rooted mutual trust and confidence has enabled the two sides to reach high levels of cooperation in key areas which we seek to further deepen and expand. Our commercial and economic cooperation is still insufficient and much greater mutual effort will be required to raise it to the level of our political and defence relationship. Both sides are aware of this and are determined to do more at the governmental and business levels.
Shared geo-political interests and regular high level dialogue over the years has also helped to forge a close understanding on major regional and international issues. India and Russia support each other fully on the question of international terrorism and oppose double standards in dealing with this rising threat. Both uphold the principle of sovereignty of States, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, respect for international law, reform of the United Nations and strengthening multilateralism. In particular, in the larger geographical region that lies between India and Russia, both countries have strong interest in peace, stability, economic development and elimination of religious fundamentalism, terrorism and drug-trafficking.
What is expected from the visit to President Putin to India?
H.E. Mr. Kanwal Sibal: Since the year 2000 annual summits have made it possible to give close attention at the highest political level to the progress of our multi-faceted strategic partnership. As part of this process, we look forward to the visit of President Putin to India later this year. Bilateral ties, will, of course, be reviewed with special focus on our economic and commercial exchanges. Important issues will receive attention no doubt. Our mutual understandings will be further reinforced by this visit which would be yet another landmark in our relations.
What are the main trends in cooperation in the hi-tech area?
H.E. Mr. Kanwal Sibal: India and Russia have been successfully executing for the past seventeen years possibly, one of the largest cooperation programs in science and technology, the Integrated Long Term Programme (ILTP). Over the years about 3000 exchange visits have taken place and 300 joint research projects completed, while 6 joint research centers in important areas of science have been established. Currently, about 150 joint research projects are being implemented.
Our cooperation in the hi-tech area covers diverse fields such as Biotechnology and Immunology; Materials Science & Technology: Laser Science & Technology: Catalysis: Space Science & Technology: Accelerators & their Applications: Hydrology; Computer & electronics; Biomedical Science & Technology; Oceanology & Oceanic Resources and Engineering Sciences; and seven select areas of basis research in science, namely: Mathematics; Applied Mechanics; Earth Sciences; Physics & Astrophysics; Ecology and Environmental Protection; Chemical Sciences and Life Sciences.
The Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials at Hyderabad focuses on three major areas, namely, Powder Metallurgy; Surface Engineering and Ceramic Materials. The Indo-Russian Centre for Advanced Computing Research in Moscow has been another important milestone in the cooperation in the hi-tech area. The parallel computing system PARAM 10000, designed and developed by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) has been installed at this Centre. The Indo-Russian Centre for Biotechnology; the Indo-Russian Centre for Gas Hydrates and Indo-Russian Centre for Earthquake Research are other centers.
Mr. Ambassador what is being done to enhance trade and economic cooperation between our two countries? Could you please comment on the possibilities of promoting business- business contacts for realizing of joint ventures, equipment supply, after-sales service in energy, oil and gas sector, as well as chemical complexes, and the possibilities of investments, in case there are state guarantees?
H.E. Mr. Kanwal Sibal: The economic and commercial component of our strategic relationship needs to be strengthened. Both sides are deeply conscious of this aberration and are committed to redressing it. The Joint Declaration on Strengthening Economic, Commercial, Scientific and Technological Cooperation signed during the 2002 Summit demonstrates our shared will to provide a new thrust to trade and investment ties.
Both our economies have undergone major changes in the last few years. We have developed new areas of competence and both are getting increasingly integrated into the global economic order. India and Russia represent large expanding economies with strong rates of growth as well as a very buoyant external sector. But we have failed to realise the inherent potential of bilateral engagement primarily because of lack of close contact between our business sectors as well as our financial institutions.
The Joint Business Council has now been revived. CII, India's apex industrial chamber, has established its office in Moscow. The first Indian commercial bank in Russia is now functioning and we expect another bank to launch its operations soon. Our contacts with regions in Russia are also expanding. Several Indian companies are establishing their physical presence in Russia. Bilateral trade is showing signs of both expansion and diversification. There are new sectors of promise such as machinery and equipment, food processing, energy, automobile and components, diamonds, pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies, IT, chemicals, plastics, SME and tourism. We are encouraging our commercial banks to develop greater understanding through increased contacts and information sharing.
We do realise that bilateral investments need to be promoted. Enhanced business contacts will help in exploring such opportunities. We have large investments in each other's energy sectors. We are actively looking for new opportunities. Russian companies are successfully bidding for infrastructure projects in India, particularly in the fields of road construction, oil and gas exploration and construction of energy pipelines. We have complementarities in several other sectors also and our business corporations need to interact on a sustained basis.
As for state guarantees, these help to kick-start the process of investments. These will be provided wherever necessary. We are also considering means of using a part of the existing rupee debt for investments. But it is important for our corporations to look beyond state guarantees or state intervention. Our business sectors have the requisite strength and global expertise to make independent investment decisions. Both economies offer sufficient rewards and opportunities to foreign investors and we must create an enabling environment for our companies to explore these opportunities in a market determined atmosphere.