Ties with Russia on firm ground, says Pranab

Moscow seeks to allay New Delhi’s apprehensions over its Islamabad tilt

May 12, 2015 12:18 am | Updated November 16, 2021 05:05 pm IST - ON BOARD PRESIDENT’S SPECIAL AIRCRAFT:

President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurating the Namaste Russia programme at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow on Sunday. Looking on is Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky

President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurating the Namaste Russia programme at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow on Sunday. Looking on is Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky

India’s relations with Russia “stand on firm ground,” regardless of recent concerns over Russia’s military ties with Pakistan, says President Pranab Mukherjee.

While he did not confirm whether the issue had come up during his bilateral talks with President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Mukherjee responded to a specific question from the media onboard his special aircraft returning from Moscow saying, “Russia is, and will continue to be, a dependable partner of India in defence matters and energy security, despite the relationship with other countries developed by Russia or developed by India.”

In recent months, there has been growing unease in India about Russia’s announcement of negotiations for the first time with Pakistan on defence exports in November 2014, including a defence framework agreement that included Mi-35 helicopters.

In another first in November 2014, a Russian contingent attended the Karachi Defence Exposition while last month Russia discussed military exercises with Pakistan during a visit by the Pakistani Defence Minister.

Assurance

Explaining the shift in Russia’s position, the Ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, had said that “Russia will never do anything detrimental to India’s interests,” adding that the Mi-35 helicopters were for civilian purpose and were offered to India too. Russia’s declining defence exports after the U.S. and the European Union imposed military and financial sanctions over the Ukraine issue, as well Russia’s growing closeness to China, are believed to have played a role in the new ties with Pakistan.

However, India’s participation at the highest level to commemorate 70 years of Victory Day, which Western countries boycotted while most Asian countries stayed away, is believed to have set India-Russia on a much closer plane, which is due to be bolstered by two visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Russia in July and November.

Positive vibes

Speaking at a function on Sunday, Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, a Putin confidant, said India’s attendance at the parade was “valued by Russia” and had set relations at a “new level.”

Answering the question on Russia’s ties with Pakistan, Mr. Mukherjee referred to his formal statement at the conclusion of his visit.

“The India-Russia relationship is one of deep friendship and mutual confidence that would not be affected by transient political trends.”

Mr. Mukherjee said that in his meeting with Mr. Putin, the two leaders had also discussed how to increase annual bilateral trade five-fold in 10 years, from the current $6 billion to $30 billion, by encouraging businessmen on both sides as well as Indian purchases of hydrocarbons and of Russian investment in nuclear power plants in India.

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