NEW DELHI: The close friendly ties between India and Russia transcends any new friendship that Moscow has struck up, a Russian official said here on Friday amid concerns in New Delhi over Russia’s growing closeness with China and Pakistan.
“The relationship between our countries transcends any new friendship that may be formed,” Ekaterina Semenova, First Secretary in the Russian Embassy here, said.
“As they say, an old friend is better than two new friends,” she stated, at a round-table discussion on ‘India-Russia Bilateral Relation in the Global Context’.
Her statement comes as Russia is supplying Pakistan with four Mi-35M attack helicopters. Both countries held their first joint military exercise in September last year, and their first bilateral consultation on regional issues in December.
There is also talk that the Russia-backed Eurasian Economic Union could be merged with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India has voiced protest against the CPEC over sovereignty issues. India boycotted the One Belt, One Road summit organised in Beijing in May, but Russia participated in it, and could even join it. Russia and China are also holding their first ever joint naval drill in the Baltic Sea.
Describing India as the locomotive of global growth, Semenova said: “Russia highly values India’s contributions to BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa bloc).”
She said that in view of the global turbulence, close coordination with New Delhi in dealing with the situations in regions like Afghanistan and Middle East is of importance.
“Russia-India cooperation is essential for enhancing world peace,” she stated, at the talk organised by the think tank Research and Information System (RIS) for Developing Countries.
Speaking on the occasion, Vladimir Yakunin, Chairman of the Dialogue of Civilisations think tank and a former President of the Russian Railways, said that India and Russia had “a very long period of good relations in a good atmosphere”.
“But, you will agree with me the level of economic and political communication is not enough, in my humble opinion,” he said.
Stating that it was not a problem from one side, he said: “That is a bilateral problem.” Speaking in the broader perspective of peace and stability in the world, he said that in its whole history, except for one small period with Finland, Russia never presented any aggressive behaviour in the international arena.
However, he said that possession by Russia of a nuclear arsenal is a stabilising factor and umbrella in terms of relations with China.
“I hope nobody here has forgotten Damansky,” Yakunin said in reference to the 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflict.
He said that despite the end of the Cold War, “we have some kind of an incarnation of the old ideology”.
He said that though he is all for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, the fact of the matter is that till the time there are borders in the world and national interests exist, the possibility of conflict is still there.
“With this constant crisis, I suppose, still nuclear armament with respect to the non-proliferation treaty can play a stabilising role in the world,” he said, adding that political egos still exist.
Nandan Unnikrishnan, Vice President and Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) think tank, described the India-Russia relationship as unique that has not been replicated anywhere in the world.
Referring to India’s leasing of a second Russian nuclear attack submarine, he asked: “Which country will give another country that kind of technology?”