The Minister’s meetings
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the Vivekananda International Foundation New Delhi, December 11, 2017
Dear Mr. Arvind Gupta,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the honor to launch this project of the Vivekananda International Foundation dedicated to the prominent Russian diplomat Alexander Kadakin. My sincere gratitude goes to our Indian friends for the high appreciation accorded to the achievements of our late colleague, for the efforts taken to immortalize his name including in the form of Kadakin memorial lecture. Alexander Mikhailovich – or Sasha, as his friends called him – had a bright and remarkable personality. He was a true professional. He loved India which, in his own words, became his karma. He invested literally all his energy and talent in the shaping and strengthening of the Russia – India special and privileged strategic partnership.
Diplomatic relations between our two States were established 70 years ago. The past seven decades have brought remarkable results. We have every right to be proud of them. Our nations and peoples are bound by strong ties of friendship, mutual sympathy, trust, respect for each other’s culture, traditions and interests. Political dialogue develops in a dynamic manner – annual summits enable us to take stock of what was achieved in key areas of cooperation and outline future perspectives. A solid treaty base has been formed and is being developed further. Large-scale projects have been launched in various spheres, from energy to pharmaceutics. The Inter‑Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation and the Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation meet regularly producing effective results.
At the same time, we should not rest on our laurels, especially given the current rapid changes in the world. Building on the experience and broadening our interaction in a creative way, we should move forward and pursue new promising avenues for cooperation. First of all, in order to achieve a breakthrough in trade and investments. Obviously, the current volume cannot be found satisfactory for our two countries. We aim to increase it to USD 30 billion by 2025. This goal can be achieved through combining our natural competitive advantages and promoting spectacular joint endeavours, such as in aerospace industry or shipbuilding.
The Russian-Indian Working Group on Priority Investment Projects – which functions within the bilateral Economic Commission – have selected twelve most promising projects to be launched – in particular, in the States of Gujarat, Karnataka and others where Russian companies will invest in construction of a butyl rubber plant, production of lighting equipment, development of a "smart city" prototype for India. These plans, which correspond to the Make in India concept announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, make it even more urgent to ensure the early conclusion of an inter‑governmental agreement on reciprocal investments protection that would reflect a balance of interests of both sides.
Moscow shares with New Delhi innovative know-how in peaceful uses of nuclear energy, thus contributing to the energy security of your country. Implementation of the flagship project – construction of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu – is in full swing. The first unit is already fully operational; the second one has been delivered to the Indian side. Work continues on units 3 through 6. Let me recall that the Strategic Vision for Strengthening Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy between the Republic of India and the Russian Federation signed in December 2014 sets an even more ambitious goal – to build at least 12 power units by 2020.
Our military and technical cooperation with India is characterized by unique level of trust – be it direct supplies or joint production of weapons and various military equipment. The experts know only too well that Russian offers on most of the military technical cooperation remains the best options for India. These will become more competitive even further with the steps being taken to improve after-sales maintenance. The joint enterprize producing the world’s best supersonic cruise missile "BrahMos", is our common special pride. Plans are being discussed for joint development of other weapons, including for their promotion in third countries. This will involve further transfer of the Russian military know-how.
Contacts between regions and business communities of the two countries enrich our bilateral links. Last June at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum Prime Minister Narendra Modi after having held full-fledged negotiations with President Vladimir Putin, also had a very fruitful meeting with the governors of several constituent entities of the Russian Federation. We welcome the participation of the Indian delegation led by Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj in the third Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok last September and a very fruitful Russian-Indian business dialogue which took place there.
Russia has something to offer in the field of education and personnel training. More than one generation of Indian engineers, medical and other specialists have received education in our country. We should build upon this experience and develop it further – inter alia, in the context of implementing the Skilling India Programme initiated by the Indian Government. Efficiency of our common efforts in this areas and their practical relevance to our citizens will be greatly enhanced when an ongoing work is finalized on the draft inter‑governmental agreement on mutual recognition of education and academic degrees in general and medical fields.
Our privileged strategic partnership implies close and long-term coordination on international arena. We value our interaction on the world issues. The independent and responsible foreign policy of India has always been an important factor contributing to global and regional security and stability. We hope this legacy will be protected and strengthened.
In the UN and other multilateral fora India and Russia have been consistently advocating compliance with the UN Charter and other norms and principles of international law, including territorial integrity, independence and sovereign equality of States, respect for cultural and civilizational pluralism of the world, as well as for the right of peoples to choose freely their own political and socio-economic development models. Together with many like-minded friends India and Russia seek to make international life more just and democratic, increase the role of developing countries in multilateral institutions, such as the UN, IMF and WB. Consolidation of efforts to promote necessary reforms continues on in various formats. Just today we held the 15th meeting of Foreign Ministers of RIC – the group launched in late 1990s which gave birth to BRICS. In its turn, BRICS became a very influential player in G-20, especially since several other participants of the group coordinate with our five countries on issues related to the reform of international monetary and financial system.
Accession by New Delhi to the SCO as a full member has significantly enhanced the political profile and potential of that Organization as well – not least as regards its capacity to help stabilize the situation in central and South Asia and resolve the crisis in and around Afghanistan.
Strengthening Indian-Russian cooperation can help find fair and durable solutions to numerous challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. We believe that sustainable security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region cannot be achieved through closed block arrangements and is only possible on an open-ended collective basis building upon the principles of indivisible security, rule of international law, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-use of force or threat of force. We are glad that India not only shares our approach but is also an active partner in the discussions of regional architecture which have been launched in the framework of the East Asia Summits, the place of regular dialogue mechanism was established in Jakarta at the headquarters of ASEAN on the strategic development issues of the region.
The unprecedented outburst of international terrorism poses the most serious threat for all nations. This evil can only be efficiently dealt with if we all join our efforts and act together as truly universal anti‑terrorist coalition acting without double standards and hidden agendas. The tasks of defeating ISIL and “NUSRA” – in all its incarnations, countering the transborder movements of foreign terrorist fighters and curbing the spread of terrorist ideology, are priorities of today. At the EAS Summit in Manila on November 14, a declaration proposed by Russia was adopted on combatting ideological challenges of terrorism, terrorist ideas and propaganda. We count on continued cooperation with our Indian partners on this track.
It is obvious that well-being of all people living across the vast Eurasian mainland can hardly be ensured without robust and indivisible economic development. It must be really and genuinely inclusive, not based on subjectively conceived closed trade blocks contradicting the principles of the global trading system under the WTO. Last June President Vladimir Putin suggested to think of a fundamentally new economic initiative in Eurasia, whereby existing subregional integration arrangements will gradually move towards liberalizing trade and investments regimes between their members. What we have in mind is to build upon the interest shown by many countries and groups to seek free trade agreements with Eurasian Economic Union. India is among those who begins relevant negotiations next month already.
At the next stages it is envisaged to expand the process to involve member countries of the EAEU, SCO, ASEAN and – why not – EU (if they opt for promoting their basic economic interests) to build what we can call a Grand Eurasian Partnership. I believe that regional cooperation schemes existing in South Asia could also benefit from joining.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There are all prerequisites in place for fuller engagement of the truly inexhaustible potential of the Indian-Russian strategic partnership. We have experience accumulated to date, we have political will, coinciding priorities. The two governments have agreed how to move forward in the best interests of ours two countries. However, whatever we do at the official level must be strongly supported by the people, including scholars and expert communities. I have no doubt that political scientists of both countries have bold and realistic ideas on future steps to take forward our special and privileged strategic partnership.
In October this year in Moscow there was a conference – to which Mr.Gupta just referred - jointly organized by the Russian Foreign Relations Council and the Vivekananda International Foundation. The agenda was about strategic vision of Russian-Indian Relations and of the changing world order. I believe that a dialogue on these issues should become regular. The answers to the multitude of extremely complex and complicated issues confronting the modern world require collective thinking.
I would conclude by thanking your Foundation for making a great contribution to these efforts, including through establishing initiating “Kadakin Lectures”.
Question: My first visit to your country was in 1981. Excellency, my intervention is triggered by global affairs. The RIC – Russia, India and China, which was conceived by Primakov long ago seemed at that point of time to be a non-starter. Today China dominates RIC economically, militarily and otherwise. Between us and Russia we do not have any issues at all, but with China we have the nuclear issue, the terrorism issue, trade imbalance. Is there any meaningful future for this organisation?
Sergey Lavrov: Had it been immediately after the first meeting that you were asking this question, maybe I would be pondering. But after the fifteenth meeting I think the answer is obvious. By the way, today we ended by a lunch with Minister Swaraj suggesting a toast to promoting better relations not only between China and India, but also between India and Pakistan. We all would be only glad if the controversies and misunderstandings, misgivings could be openly addressed and honestly resolved. To continue thinking how we can overcome issues mentioned by you, I believe the next speaker in this audience should be the foreign minister of China.
Question: There is a convergence of views between Russia and India on what the situation should be in Afghanistan. But there appears to be a divergence as to how to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan because of the softness Russia has been showing towards the Taliban. That remains the route of problems in Afghanistan, and the distinction that is being drawn between ISIL and the Taliban, given that ISIL in Afghanistan is part of a faction of the Taliban. What is the position Russia seems to have on the Taliban? If I may, I have another question. Russia seems to be interested in participating in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, at least this is what the Pakistanis say. The Chinese are ready to lose 80 percent of their investment in Pakistan. Do the Russians have any estimate of how much they are going to lose when investing in Pakistan?
Sergey Lavrov: I think that you have been deeply penetrated by some propaganda. On the Taliban: never ever was there any proof, any fact that Russia supported the Taliban as some of the American officials alluded or that we even armed the Taliban. We have contacted the Taliban only for two reasons: when our citizens or citizens of our allies got into harm’s way and we needed to extract them from there, and the second reason is to persuade the Taliban to sit down and to negotiate. But we always reserve and say that they must join the negotiations provided they respect the criteria established by the Security Council: renounce terrorism, I mean renounce violence, severe any links to terrorist organisations and respect the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Having been criticised by the Americans for quite some time, lately I heard a US official saying that we call upon the Taliban to join the negotiations without any criteria being respected. So make your own conclusions.
I don’t think that the recent American strategy on Afghanistan which was announced and which puts emphasis on the use of force, to defeat those who would not be cooperating and those who would be engaged in violence, I don’t think that it would work, frankly. Like for the last sixteen years the presence of the huge army of NATO did not manage neither to curb extremism and terrorism nor to stop drug production which reached its all-time record this year. Opium and heroin production in Afghanistan since 9/11, I think, maybe quadrupled or even more. It is to be understood and accepted that this is something which feeds terrorist activity directly. It should also be understood that without precursors this drug production would not be possible. Most precursors come from Europe. What we need is to have no-fool, no double standards, united front against terrorism in all its incarnations, in all its forms, including financing of terrorism, including the drug industry that feeds terrorism, and so on and so forth.
On Afghanistan, specifically, there used to be a group called the 6+1. That was the time when the Taliban were ruling in Afghanistan. The group met several times, and it was useful to see what some of the neighbours plus Russia, plus the United States and the UN of course, can do about the situation. Since then there is a legitimate government in Kabul, even though we can argue how the government was assembled, what kind of elections took place, who was winning, who announced the recount of the vote the results of which were never made public. We can also argue about the role outside players had in creating this particular political system is Afghanistan. Never has a system imposed from the outside can be sustainable. We see this in Afghanistan, were problems are accumulating domestically, we see this in Yemen, where a deal agreed by outside players was just imposed on the country, so we have what we have in Yemen.
Then there was the quartet: Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States. They met several times, then they stopped meeting, now they think of meeting again. Then there is the Kabul Process, which for me is too large at this stage. It would be necessary when it comes to reconstruction and mobilising support for rebuilding the country, but in order to find a solution to a political crisis and to moving from a violent state of play into negotiations, you need a smaller group of countries, and in our view that should be all the participants of 6+1, but also all Central Asian countries, because each and every of them, not only Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan as neighbours, but others as well, they feel the bad influence of what is going on in Afghanistan. We convened it, we called it the Moscow Process. Unfortunately, the Americans declined, I do not know why. Instead they are now playing a game with 6+1.
My point is that you cannot resolve the situation without having everybody on board, everybody around the table: the government, the Taliban and those who can really influence the situation, including neighbours. That was what Russia basically did a couple of times. People who participated said that it was useful. In any case, with India and Pakistan having joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, we revived the Shanghai plus Afghanistan Contact Group. It met in October this year in Moscow. It is meeting early next year in China, and we would be certainly India’s initiative to invite another meeting of this contact group to Delhi.
Then there was something about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. You know, we have our own corridors. We have a huge territory and do not need any other corridors. We need to develop our own corridors instead of playing in the hand of our competition. Why should we do it? The overall picture of Eurasian economic development is certainly to be borne in mind. In fact, Kazakhstan is offering its territory, Azerbaijan is interested to link Central Asia with the Caspian Region, and China has the concept which we believe is very interesting and needs to be explored in the context of building a harmonious relationship in terms of trade, investment, transport, as well as logistics in Eurasian continent. I know that India has problems with the One Belt, One Road concept, as we discussed today. However, the specific problem in this regard should not make anything else conditional on resolving political differences. India is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, so are Russia, China and practically all Central Asian countries. All of them have already signed documents with China on cooperation in the context of One Road, One Belt. Russia and other members of the Eurasian Economic Union concluded an economic cooperation agreement with China. These are facts from the ground that are going to be developed further. I am 100% convinced that India has enough very smart diplomats and politicians to find a way which would allow you to benefit from this process, and at the same time not to sacrifice your positions of principle.
Question: Why is Russia and some of its colleagues in the UN Security Council, and please correct me if I am wrong, they are so reluctant to call Pakistan sponsoring terrorism. There is enough evidence already available in the public domain about its complicity or duplicity on the issue of terrorism. So in your estimations, is Pakistan a fit case for being designated as a state-sponsor, or you think Pakistan is a nation you can speak with?
Sergey Lavrov: There is no such thing as a UN list of states sponsoring terrorism. There is an American list which they use as they please. But there is no such thing in the United Nations as a list of states sponsoring terrorism. The Security Council agrees on criteria to include specific organisations and to list them as terrorist organisations. If you take a look at Security Council documents, as well as the declaration of the BRICS Summit in China last September, you will see quite a list of organisations which we all condemn as terrorists. Maybe this information will be useful for you. Otherwise we all want terrorism to be eradicated from Afghanistan, from Pakistan, from each and every country on Earth. Yes, we understand Pakistan’s interest in solving this, to get rid of terrorist groups which use its territory and we would be ready to support the Pakistani government in this regard. I believe everybody should.
Question: With regard to the Make in India program in the defence sector, how far is Russia willing to go in terms of the technology transfer?
Sergey Lavrov: As I said in my statement, as we continue and deepen our cooperation with regard to technical matters, this would involve more know-how from Russia transferred. If you want me to some details, I do not know, maybe you are a representative of a competitor.
Question: Recently senior air force officials made a report and a presentation for the government about the FGFA. There appears to be some doubt. Can you tell me whether this information on the fifth-generation fighter aircraft has been given to the Russian side?
Sergey Lavrov: Information about what?
Question: They have doubts about the FGFA. The report was written by vice-marshal of the air force and handed over to the defence minister, and there was also a presentation. Second, after so many years and so much money spent, can you tell us if a second Akula will be transferred to India?
Sergey Lavrov: First of all, there is a special place to discuss these things, and if you want to satisfy your curiosity, I am sorry, this is not a subject which is appropriate for this particular purpose. I can only say that if we have agreement on both sides on any project, be it military, military-technical, be it economic, logistical, what have we, then this project is going to be implemented. If one side, one party is not interested, this is the situation. Nobody is going to twist hands or impose something.