Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with External Affairs Minister of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Moscow, August 28, 2019
We have held constructive and beneficial talks with my Indian colleague. It was my first full-format meeting with Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after his appointment as India’s Minister of External Affairs.
Today we discussed ways to build up our privileged strategic partnership, including on the foreign policy stage. Our partnership is intrinsically valuable; it is immune to any short-term factors and has been actively supported at the top level during regular meetings between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. They met five times last year and twice this year.
Today we focused our attention on preparations for Prime Minister Modi’s upcoming visit to Russia, where he will hold talks with President Putin and attend the fifth Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok as a guest of honour. We discussed in detail the agenda of the meeting and agreed that we are moving in the right direction.
We pointed out the positive dynamics of our trade and economic ties. Our trade increased by over 17 per cent to nearly $11 billion last year, and this positive trend has been maintained this year. Following our talks, Mr Jaishankar will hold in-depth discussions on bilateral trade, economic and investment cooperation with Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov, co-chair of the Russian-Indian Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation.
We share a positive view on our military technical cooperation and its prospects, including the possibility of enhancing the joint manufacturing of modern weapons. We agreed to promote our multifaceted cooperation in space exploration, nuclear energy and other high-tech spheres.
We have similar or identical views on the key global and regional issues. We agree that interstate dialogue must be based on the principles of the UN Charter and respect of the nations’ right to choose their development model. We work together and closely coordinate our activities at the UN, the G20, BRICS, the SCO and RIC.
We discussed a number of specific subjects, such as the need to stimulate our efforts within the Russia-India-Iran format to create the International North-South Transport Corridor. Our concerned agencies are holding practical consultations on this matter.
We also noted that deepening economic cooperation with India is among the top priorities of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). All the necessary procedures have been completed for launching official talks on a free trade agreement between the EAEU and India. An early launch of these talks will mark a major stage of cooperation between the two parties.
Overall, our talks have confirmed, as I said, the privileged nature of our strategic partnership. Both sides are resolved to implement the instructions issued by President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to continue to promote our relations.
Question: What can you say about US President Donald Trump’s statement to the effect that at a certain point of time, countries like India and Russia will have to fight terrorism in Afghanistan?
Sergey Lavrov: Fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, which is financing it, is a key element of our policy towards Afghanistan and the focus of our efforts undertaken within both the Moscow format and the Russia-US-China group to which we would like to attract other countries as well, including India, Pakistan and Iran. All of these efforts are intended to promote a political settlement in Afghanistan that will be acceptable to all the main ethnic and religious political groups, will be based on the principle of national consensus and will exclude the threats of terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking, which are coming from Afghanistan. This position coincides with the basic stand of our Indian friends and the majority of other countries that are contributing to such a settlement.
On the practical side, we continue to provide assistance and equipment to the Afghan army and security forces. So far they have been unable to root out the terrorist threat on their own, which is why we must carry on our efforts in this sphere. There is no doubt that the fight against terrorism must exclude any double standards.
For a number of reasons, including the wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria launched by the United States and its allies, the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) is spreading to other countries, such as Afghanistan, where ISIS is trying to take a stand in the north and to create a bridgehead for projecting its influence onto our Central Asian allies. We are alarmed by the reports, which appeared long ago, according to which our Western colleagues’ policy of double standards towards this terrorist group, which has been prohibited by the UN Security Council and which they are trying to use to attain one-sided geopolitical goals in Afghanistan. I will not go into details now but we are discussing this matter with the concerned states. I can assure you that we have almost identical views with India on Afghanistan. Today we have agreed to continue to closely coordinate our efforts on this issue.
Question (addressed to Sergey Lavrov): Mr Lavrov, what do you think about France’s initiative to ease sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran?
Sergey Lavrov: As for the French leadership’s initiatives to overcome the crisis over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme, President of Russia Vladimir Putin had a detailed conversation with President of France Emmanuel Macron at the Russian-French summit in Bregancon a week ago. President Putin supported the proposal of his French counterpart to revive the JCPOA and all the relevant agreements. As for specific steps in this area (I will not describe them in detail because they are still a subject of negotiations and confidential consultations), they will be successful if they are acceptable for all participants in the JCPOA, including the Islamic Republic of Iran. We are willing to facilitate the achievement of this goal.
Question (addressed to Sergey Lavrov): You are going to discuss new areas of bilateral cooperation at the forthcoming Russian-Indian summit and the economic forum. Do you intend to promote Russian products in India? I am referring to cheese, honey, herbs and other consumer goods that may find a market in India.
Sergey Lavrov: Thank you for mentioning cheese among the achievements of Russian agriculture. This shows that import substitution not only works in Russia but has already won recognition in the whole world, at least in one of its largest democracies.
We don’t need to promote our products in India because our Indian partners know the Russian market very well. We maintain very close contacts between our ministries, departments, private companies and state corporations. We have studied each other’s markets very well. Our Indian partners are very well informed about our potentialities — not only in cheese-making and honey production but also in high-tech areas. Moreover, many projects on using Russian technology in India, both in the civilian and military-technical sectors have been carried out for years. We are trying to take full account of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” programme. We are pleased to work on specific projects. I think the summit in Vladivostok on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum will produce more specific results in this context.