Ahead of Russian President Valdimir Putin’s visit next month, Moscow declared that it would not sell arms to Pakistan. “We are always cooperating with India to ensure safety of the region. We never created trouble for India in the region as compared to other countries. If someone says otherwise, spit in his face,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin replied on being asked whether Russia was planning to sell arms to Pakistan.
“We don’t do military business with your enemies. We don’t transfer any arms to them,” he told journalists after arriving here on Sunday to co-chair the India-Russia Inter-governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC) with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in the run-up to Mr. Putin’s first visit to south Asia in his third term as Russian President.
Mr. Rogozin was clearing the air on several high-level engagements with Pakistan in recent times, which has led to talk about a reset in Russia-Pakistan ties. While Mr. Putin cancelled his Islamabad visit last month, his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held consultations with the Pakistani leadership. Around the same time, Pakistan Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited Moscow.
Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who was here a few days ago to hold talks with his Indian counterpart, A.K. Antony, on putting defence trade into a higher trajectory, besides sealing some pending deals, also became part of the story when he cancelled his visit when Gen. Kayani was in Moscow. Indian officials hotly denied that Mr. Serdyukov had postponed his India visit to be at hand to meet Mr. Kayani in Moscow but they gave no reasons for the Russian Defence Minister putting back his engagements in India by a week.
Mr. Rogozin, in-charge of Russia’s recently announced defence research organisation, will be taking up issues unresolved since his July visit — chiefly nuclear liability and investment by telecom company Sistema — besides touching on future areas of cooperation in the defence sector that were discussed by Mr. Serdyukov.
Mr. Rogozin indicated that tough negotiations lay ahead on the next two reactors at Kudankulam. Russia does not want the civil nuclear liability law to apply to the proposed units 3 and 4. India has not applied the law to units 1 and 2 (being challenged in the Supreme Court) because they were constructed under an agreement that predated the 2010 civil liability law. But it is against exempting units 3 and 4 because this will be seen as discriminating against companies from the U.S. and France.
While warning that the reactors would become more expensive if they were brought under the liability law, Mr. Rogozin also addressed safety issues about units 1 and 2. Post-Fukushima, protests delayed their operationalisation and even Sri Lanka was concerned enough to begin talks with India on a civil nuclear agreement whose important components will be nuclear safety and response to nuclear accidents.
On this, Mr. Rogozin said Russia had imbibed the lessons of the Chernobyl accident and had since then worked to make the safety aspect on a par with world standards. “As for the nuclear project under construction in India, it will be the most reliable in the world,” he said. At the same time, he was not dismissive of the safety fears expressed by locals around the Kudankulam plant but felt “our emotions should not stop the project and stop progress in cooperation.”
The two sides will also be discussing some joint projects, none of which has taken off. These include Indian interest in Russian gas fields and Moscow’s bid to enter the steel segment. But officials have noted the signing of the mega gas deal contract between Gas Authority of India Limited and Gazprom despite attempts to derail the deal, which led to a three-year delay in supplies to begin.