I am delighted to address you all at the conclusion of my talks today with my Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Of course none of you would be surprised to learn that the discussions were very warm, they were comprehensive and they were very productive.
2. Time-tested is a frequently used and clearly justified description of India-Russia relations. Though the world has changed in the last seven decades and there have been different governments at both ends, our ties, I am Sure Minister Lavrov would agree, have remained uniquely strong and steady. And the reason for that has been our consistent ability to identify and update our shared interests. We are both cognisant of the multi-polar and rebalanced nature of international relations today. We both understand the importance of our relationship to global peace, security and stability. And, therefore, as Foreign Ministers, we work hard to deliver on that responsibility.
3. Much of our discussions today covered the preparations for President Putin’s visit for the Annual Summit later this year. I am sure Minister Lavrov would share my assessment that our bilateral cooperation remains energetic and forward looking. We talked about longstanding partnership in nuclear, space and defence sectors. We assessed positively our economic cooperation, noting the new opportunities in Russian Far East. We spoke of connectivity, including the International North-South Transport Corridor and the Chennai-Vladivostok Eastern Maritime Corridor. Our rapidly expanding energy cooperation that now includes long term commitments was also on the agenda. On my part, I briefed Minister Lavrov on recent developments in India that open up new Opportunities for Russian businesses in various sectors. The Atmanirbhar Bharat economic vision can facilitate a more contemporary economic relationship in the post-Covid era.
4. This review of our bilateral cooperation was really encouraging. We note the appetite for greater investments in each other by both countries. Russian support for our Gaganyaan programme has progressed which we deeply appreciate. Our defence sector requirements in the past year were expeditiously addressed. And in meeting the Covid challenge, our pharmaceutical collaboration has become more serious and as many of you are aware we have a Russian vaccine under discussion for production in India.
5. There was naturally an exchange of views and assessments on important regional and global matters. This had a particular importance because we are both members of the UN Security Council right now. We are a non-permanent member, Russia is a permanent member. Issues on which India is chairing UNSC committees came up in some detail. India has also taken over the Chair of BRICS and RIC from Russia for this year. And our common membership of the G-20, ASEAN-led forums, SCO and CICA added to the substance of our conversation.
6. One question on which we spent some time is the unfolding developments in and around Afghanistan. As you all know, the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process conference took place last week, I was in Dushanbe for that. There have been other discussions of a bilateral or plurilateral nature as well. Many more can be expected in the coming days. For India, what happens in Afghanistan impacts its security directly. I shared our approach that a durable peace there would require harmonising interests of all, both within and around that country. The peace process must be based on foundational principles to which we all subscribe. And a political solution should mean an independent, sovereign, united and democratic Afghanistan.
7. There was an exchange of views on West Asia, the Gulf and Iran. This is a geography where we both have longstanding equities and our active diplomacy reflects that to great measure. Peace and stability in such a sensitive and vital region is in global interest.
8. I shared our view-point on the Indo-Pacific. As our Prime Minister pointed out at the Shangri-La Dialogue some years ago, contemporary challenges require countries to work together in new and different ways. Such cooperation also reflects the multi-polar and rebalanced character of global politics. India is strongly committed to ASEAN centrality and this is underlined by the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative that it has been advocating at the East-Asia summit. As we implement our Act East and beyond policy, Russia is a very important partner. Whether it is their Far East or whether it is the Chennai-Vladivostok Corridor.
9. In addition, of course there was the larger backdrop of global political changes that provided a context for our talks today. As longstanding partners, we could discuss their implications with a high degree of confidence and comfort. I valued the quality of our discussions today very much. We have completed a decade of our special and privileged strategic partnership. And that certainly permeated the tenor of our discussions. We also reviewed the forthcoming high level exchanges leading up to the Annual Summit this year. Once again, Minister Lavrov, it is a great pleasure to welcome you back to New Delhi. I request you to make your statement.