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Message of Minister of State for External Affairs at the Indo-Russian Young Scholars International Conference 2020

September 03, 2020

Namaskaram to all !

As we approach the eve of the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration of Strategic Partnership, between the Republic of India and the Russian Federation, I would like to congratulate the friendly people of Russia and the distinguished panelists from India & Russia present today. This international conference is being held at a very opportune time when we are commemorating the progressive evolution of our Bilateral Partnership to a Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership. It is a special and unique partnership, which is characterized by mutual trust and respect for each other’s core national interests covering all possible areas of cooperation. It is based on similar civilizational values, time-tested friendship, historic milestones, unparalleled mutual respect & trust, common interests and concurrence on fundamental issues of development and global affairs.

This year is special, also because we mark the historic milestone of 75th Anniversary of Victory Day. This victory remains an abiding reminder of the heroism and immense sacrifice of Russian people. India stands with Russia in solemn remembrance of the heroes of the Great Patriotic War. I am happy to note that our Hon’ble Defence Minister and Military Contingent participated in the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow.

This year has been particularly difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am happy to note that in these difficult times, India and Russia joined hands against the pandemic to protect the health and safety of Russian citizens in India and Indian citizens in Russia. About 10000 Indian nationals, mostly students studying medicine in Russia, were repatriated to their home states under Vande Bharat Mission. Russian authorities helped them by ensuring their comfortable stay, extending their visa, allowing smooth travel during the pandemic. Similarly, Indian authorities ensured hassle free return of thousands of Russian friends from Goa, Delhi and other places when several Indian states were under strict lock down. We were happy to provide Hydroxy Chloroquine in initial months to Russia when it was high in demand globally. We are also exploring ways to working together in pharmaceutical sector including vaccine development.

Despite the travel restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 pandemic, we maintained the dynamics of our bilateral contacts at the leadership level as well as in bilateral and multilateral spheres through online platforms as well as in-person meetings.

Over these glorious 20 years of collaboration, our traditional pillars of cooperation – defence, energy, nuclear and space have done exceedingly well and are poised to do even better as we are looking forward to investments, partnerships and joint production in these areas. Our joint efforts have led to more than 40% increase in mutual trade with an upward trend in both imports & exports. This upward trajectory was challenged by COVID imposed restrictions, but we are seeing a gradual recovery.

Apart from the traditional pillars, we are working together to explore potential areas of cooperation in areas like agriculture, coking coal, pharma & health sector, digital & IT sectors, exchange of skilled manpower, cooperation between the regions including in the Far East, cooperation in the Arctic, logistics and connectivity. Our joint efforts towards gradual reduction of trade barriers and forging free trade agreements would have a multiplier effect in this direction.

People of our friendly countries have an inherent affinity and inclination towards each other’s culture, arts, tradition and history. Over the years, we have witnessed an impressive mutual growth in tourism and people to people contacts and exchanges in the sphere of education, research, arts and culture.

Strengthening of our bilateral relations is a foreign policy priority for both our countries. We have great geopolitical complementarities and synergy on global issues. India’s election to the non-permanent seat of UNSC would provide additional opportunities to coordinate efforts on most pressing issues of global concern.

These years have also seen a great deal of domestic developments in both the countries. As the largest democracy, India has made its way to the fifth largest economy in the world. Today, we focus on taking India to new heights, to build a new India - an Atma-Nirbhar (self-reliant) India. India is making efforts to be self-reliant by re-orienting its terms of engagement to become part of global value chains - "Make in India” to "Make for the World”. We look forward to close cooperation with Russia as we make strides in our efforts.

The world is changing in various ways, but one constant factor is the strength of our bilateral relations. Not only at the level of our leaders, which is very strong, but also at the level of the governments, of the business community and most importantly of the people.

I would like to thank the Eurasian Foundation, New Delhi, Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow and the Russian Centre of Science and Culture, New Delhi for organizing this conference reflecting upon the 20 years of our strategic partnership in various spheres and putting together a comprehensive list of illustrious speakers from India and Russia.

Thank you.
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