Wednesday, Nov 05, 2003
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By Amit Baruah
Speaking to The Hindu before leaving for Moscow to prepare for the November 12 annual summit meeting between the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, Mr. Kadakin said Russia, for one, would like to be included in the forum.
On bilateral matters, the veteran diplomat said he expected at least a dozen agreements to be signed during Mr. Vajpayee's visit. However, he disagreed with reports in a section of the press that the contract for the purchase of the aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, would definitely be signed.
He pointed out that Mr. Putin and Mr. Vajpayee had signed an "agreement" for the Gorshkov purchase in October 2000. "It doesn't have to happen during this visit," Mr. Kadakin, who has been based in India for 15 years in different capacities, said. Price negotiations were going on, and if it was not done during the Vajpayee visit, then it would happen in the next few weeks. The Gorshkov purchase would involve more than 15 contracts, he said, including the purchase of MiG-29s. "Prime Ministers and Presidents don't negotiate prices."
However, Mr. Kadakin added a caveat. "The longer they (the two sides) talk, the price is going to go up automatically." A key agreement on space cooperation would also be signed, he said, but chose not to give details.
While sounding upbeat on the robust strategic partnership between India and Russia, he was concerned at the poor state of bilateral trade. Trade volume, he said, stood at under $1.5 billion. The two countries had decided to phase out the rupee-rouble trade and from next year would be trading in hard currency. This, he felt, might give a boost to the trade ties.
As for the dues of $3 billion from the rupee-rouble trade, it had been decided to identify joint ventures to use the money. He cited the Brahmos missile as a successful joint venture.
Mr. Kadakin was unhappy that the Indian side did not recognise Russian bank guarantees when key Western nations did so. Indian investors, too, had to be more aggressive. "The days when the Soviet politburo decided to purchase one million sweaters from Ludhiana are gone. Indian business needs to get out of this mindset," he said. They should compete for business in Russia or they would be left out.
Asked if the poor state of the trade relationship would cast a shadow on the Indo-Russian strategic partnership, Mr. Kadakin felt these were two separate issues.
Also, he was concerned that India and Russia had, so far, been unable to conclude a visa-free travel arrangement for those holding diplomatic and official passports. "It is absurd that we must stamp Prime Minister Vajpayee's passport each time he travels to Russia. We are such close friends. Diplomats should not be required to have visas," Mr. Kadakin said. However, progress had been made in simplifying visa requirements for businesspersons.
Welcoming Mr. Vajpayee's "12 steps to peace" with Pakistan, he said Mr. Putin had told the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, in Malaysia, recently that cross-border terrorism had to be ended once and for all in the "Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir".
However, Russia wanted to develop good relations with Pakistan, which could include the modernisation of the Karachi steel plant built by the Russians. "Anything we do (with Pakistan) will never be to the detriment of our full-fledged partnership with India," he said.
On Russian military sales to Pakistan, he said this required the accumulation of trust.
With India, for instance, Mr. Kadakin, who is fluent in Hindi, said Russia had "poora vishvas" (full trust). We don't have that kind of trust with any other country in the region. Nothing will be done to harm our relations with India, including in the field of defence."
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