Moscow, Nov. 11: “So, Jayalalithaa is upset with you,” Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee jocularly asked journalists aboard the special flight taking him on a three-nation tour beginning with Russia. “We are also upset with her,” came the prompt reply from the media representatives. Vajpayee did not push the point further.
However, what the Prime Minister will try and push during his three-day stay here is the relationship with Russia — to emphasise that both India and Russia have outgrown the relations between an arms seller and an arms buyer.
Although military and economic co-operation continue to expand, there is a remarkable understanding between the two countries on the issues of global and regional security, the war on terrorism, the role of the UN and the establishment of a multi-polar world.
Vajpayee’s latest visit to Russia is fourth in the series of annual bilateral summits. The Prime Minister was in Russia only five months ago when he came to participate in the tercentenary celebrations of St Petersburg.
Indian officials believe that the frequent contact between the two countries not only restores the stability in the relationship but also lends it continuity.
However, most importantly, in his interactions with the Russian leadership, the Prime Minister will emphasise on the civilisational and time-tested nature of the India-Russia relationship. He will argue that there is a nationwide consensus in India on the necessity of stable and close relations with Russia.
Vajpayee told Russian media as much on the eve of his arrival. The Prime Minister told Izvestia that the military co-operation with Russia was of special significance and had gone beyond the buyer-seller relationship.
“India and Russia have graduated to joint designing, development and production (of defence products). The jointly developed Brahmos missile is a glowing example of the new dimension of Indo-Russian co-operation in this sphere,” said Vajpayee.
“India and Russia have also entered into an agreement to jointly design and produce fifth generation aircraft.”
Vajpayee allayed Russian fears of India expanding its supplier base for defence goods saying, “India’s defence co-operation with other countries cannot dilute the fundamental strength of the India-Russia defence relationship”.
In another interview, to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Vajpayee said: “There can be no doubt concerning the importance of Russia as a reliable strategic partner of India.”
The Prime Minister felt that Russia and India were not exploiting the potential for co-operation between them fully. Arguing that it was important that the two countries seek new spheres of co-operation, he told the newspaper that steps were being taken to diversify the nature of the economic relationship between the two countries — moving from the traditional spheres towards ones dealing with the “new economy”.
Vajpayee said efforts were also being made to create Indian joint venture banks in Moscow to facilitate enhanced trade links.
It is well known by now that the sale of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov will not be clinched during Vajpayee’s visit — price negotiations have not been concluded to the satisfaction of the two sides as yet.
However, India will use the opportunity of the Prime Minister’s visit to expand co-operation in the fields of space, nuclear energy, science technology and business.
India is interested in the expansion of Russian assistance for the Kodankulam nuclear power plant.
However, Russia is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which has concerns about supplying civilian nuclear technology to India.
The task then is to see how the co-operation between the two sides can be enhanced. A memorandum of understanding in the field of space — satellite technology and launch facilitation — will also be signed between the two sides.