Dr. Andrey Kortinov, Director General, RIAC
Mr. Roman Babushkin, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Russia in New Delhi,
Ms. Gina Uika, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of India in Moscow,
May I begin by congratulating Dr. Tatiana Shaumyan, Head of the Center of Indian Studies and the Academic Board Member of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, on whom a Padma Shri has been conferred on our Republic Day for her role in deepening India-Russia friendship. We are glad to see you in the Dialogue today.
I warmly welcome the Chairs of the three sessions – Amb Raghavan, Amb Ivashentsov and Prof. Anuradha Chenoy; as well as all the distinguished participants to the ICWA-RIAC Dialogue titled “Strategic Visions of India-Russia Relations and Changes in the World Order” As the theme suggests, the world is experiencing unprecedented geopolitical ferment and critical shifts are underway in the international order and the environment around us. The Covid-19 pandemic since the last two years has brought to the fore new challenges even as we deal with existing ones.
2. Our dialogue is taking place after the 21st India-Russia Summit and the inaugural 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Dialogue held on 6th December. These recent meetings provide a good backdrop to our Dialogue and a timely opportunity to discuss trends in our relationship. President Putin’s visit to New Delhi, despite his several preoccupations and the pandemic, reflects the importance of our partnership - a long standing and reliable friendship that has, strengthened even midst several geopolitical changes in the world order. We have completed 50 years of the 1971 Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation and 20 years of the Declaration on Strategic Partnership. Throughout this period, the bilateral ties have acquired strengths and characteristics, to deal with new challenges on the global and regional fronts.
3. On the global front, we are witnessing an evolving scenario characterised by US-China confrontation. The rise of China has impacted the dynamics within Asia and increased tensions as it is aggressively making territorial claims against its maritime and land neighbours.
4. As India and Russia deal with changes in the global scenario, they have maintained independent foreign policies and pursued strategic autonomy. This has resulted in a few issues on which there may be differing views even as there are several issues on which there is convergence of positions, but the fact remains that India and Russia are have maintained regular and frank dialogue on all regional and global developments that impinge on their respective interests. We would be interested in hearing from the Russian side in the First session of today’s Dialogue, about the standoff in Ukraine.
5. The unfolding security situation in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal has resulted in a complex situation in our neighbourhood. India and Russia both share the position that the situation in Afghanistan has implications for regional security due to terrorism, radicalization and drug trafficking. While the immediate concern is getting across humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan, the formation of a truly inclusive and representative government is important for long term stability in Afghanistan and in our region, including Central Asia. In November last year, Russia along with Iran and the five Central Asian countries participated in the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan which adopted the Delhi Declaration.
6. Yesterday, India held its first Summit with the leaders of the five Central Asian countries. India is committed to upgrading its ties with these countries and working towards viable and secure connectivity with this region. In this context, I believe, India and Russia also have a shared interest in the operationalization of the International North-South Transport Corridor, which would include the Chabahar port.
7. On the Indo-Pacific, there are different views. In articulating its own Indo -Pacific Vision, India has defined the maritime geography where it has broad interests. As a maritime nation, India has traditionally been trading across oceanic routes and continues to do so. Hence, sea lanes of communication are of critical importance to India’s security and growth. It is for this reason also that we attach the highest importance to a rules-based maritime order. India seeks partnerships with all nations in the Indo Pacific geography as well as beyond who have a stake in it. A free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region will bring progress and prosperity to all. Therefore, we look at working on complementarities and on initiatives with all countries in this region. Russia is an important partner for India, both in the continental and in the maritime space. We hope to have fruitful discussions in the second session of our Dialogue today on the convergences and divergences on Indo-Pacific while exploring the scope and opportunities for India-Russia joint initiatives in the region.
8. Ties between India and Russia are close, traditional, long-standing and time-tested. They span every possible area of cooperation – political, defence and security, economic, S&T, and cultural. Discussions, consultations and coordination are the hallmarks of this relationship. Russia has consistently supported India’s membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group; India and Russia are even collaborating to set up the Rooppur nuclear plant in Bangladesh.
9. Post-COVID economic challenges for Moscow and New Delhi have opened up opportunities for advancing Russia-India economic cooperation. In today’s final session we will deliberate upon the new drivers of growth with particular emphasis on collaboration in new and emerging technologies, prospects for developing joint projects in the Russian Far East and in the Arctic for long term cooperation.
10. We look forward to our deliberations today and hope that they will add more depth to understanding the India-Russia bilateral relations. We hope to have a concrete view of Indian and Russian perspectives on the issues and look forward to the recommendations by our eminent speakers.
11. I also take this opportunity to congratulate our MoU partner-RIAC for completing ten years recently. We cherish our partnership with RIAC and our fruitful engagement.