October 21, 2013
Moscow, Russia

PM's address at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations

“I consider it a matter of great honour that the Moscow State Institute of International Relations has decided to confer an Honorary Doctorate on me. I am conscious of the rich history of this great institution and its enormous contribution to Russian and international diplomacy. Your gesture today is yet another indication of the abiding affection of the Russian people for India and the strength of relations between our two countries, which I have experienced personally in many decades of public life.

Relations between India and Russia are built on abiding links of commerce and culture, which go back many centuries. In the 20th century, which was an era of momentous change for both our countries, our political leaders, intellectuals and artists engaged with each other and influenced each other’s thoughts and ideas. One only has to glance at the rich correspondence between Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi to get a sense of how formative the thinking of Tolstoy was for Gandhiji’s practice of non-violence.

Following India’s independence and consistently since then, India and Russia have built a sound relationship befitting the challenges of the modern age. India has benefited enormously from Russian support in every aspect of India`s national development efforts – be it the development of heavy industry, the power sector, our space programme or in meeting our defence needs. Most importantly, Russia has stood by India at moments of great international challenge, when our own resources were limited and our friends were few. Beyond all the assistance that we have received, it is this last fact that Indians will never forget. And it is for these reasons that the people of India regard Russian friendship and support as something particularly precious. It is for these same reasons, ladies and gentlemen that, over the past six decades, no country has had closer relations with India and no country inspires more admiration, trust and confidence among the people of India than Russia.

At the beginning of the last decade of the last century, both our countries went through a difficult period of political and economic change. While Russia showed great resilience and resolve in regaining its place in the world, India opened itself and became more deeply integrated with the world economy. Neither of us allowed these changes to derail the course of our relationship. Indeed, by the dawn of the new century, India and Russia had not only restored the direction and regained the momentum of their relationship, but had also given it a new character. This was in recognition of the enduring values of this relationship, which enjoys complete political consensus and enormous public goodwill and support in India.

This distinguished audience would be more than aware of the substance of the cooperation between India and Russia. Russia was the first country with which, in 2000, India signed a Declaration of Strategic Partnership and began the process of annual summits. Our defence relationship with Russia is unmatched by any other relationship. The soon to be commissioned aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, the nuclear submarine INS Chakra leased to us by Russia and the joint development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft and the Brahmos Cruise Missile are examples of the scale and sophistication of our collaboration.

Russia offered us partnership in nuclear energy when the world still shunned nuclear commerce with us. I take particular joy in informing this august audience that the first unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, built with Russian assistance, went critical in July this year and that the second one should be commissioned early next year. The Indian oil company ONGC’s largest overseas presence is in Russia. Our largest science and technology cooperation programme is also with Russia.

Even this brief overview of the fruits of our cooperation should be enough to justify fully the description of our relationship as a special and privileged strategic partnership. Observers may well ask how we can take this relationship to greater heights. I am convinced that while the strength and the intensity of our relationship will remain undiminished, it must also adapt itself to the changing times so that we can address the full range of current opportunities and challenges. I am also sure that, as in the past, we shall face these challenges together.

At the bilateral level, while Russia will remain an indispensable partner for our defence needs, our future defence partnership must be increasingly based on technology transfer, joint ventures and co-development and co-production. We also see Russia as a key partner for our energy security. We have an ambitious long-term plan of cooperation in nuclear energy. The programme of cooperation in hydrocarbons that we are drawing up will further intensify our partnership in oil and gas and renewable energy sources.

The sustained expansion of our trade and investment flows has added a new dimension to the relationship. We should harness the full potential of our two economies to impart even greater depth and dynamism to it. The unprecedented level of growth in tourism between India and Russia not only brings us economic benefits, but also deepens the contact between our peoples.

At the regional and global level, India and Russia share many equities. While both of us have developed broad-based and diversified patterns of relationships, one of the fundamental foundations of India’s foreign policy is our partnership with Russia. We are both impacted by developments in our common neighbourhood, making our strategic partnership even more relevant than ever before. I see four areas as being of particular importance in this context.

Firstly, developments in Central and South-Central Asia are of relevance to the security of both Russia and India. As India revitalizes its historic links with Central Asia, we look forward to working more closely with Russia in the region. Our cooperation can play an important role in advancing peace, stability and economic development in Afghanistan. It can be equally effective in combating the shared challenges of extremism, terrorism and narco-trafficking. Coordination of our policies in this shared neighbourhood has served us both well and we should continue to pursue it more closely in the future.

Secondly, peace and stability in the Gulf and West Asia are in our shared interest. For reasons of proximity, security, energy supplies and the livelihood of more than six million Indians living in a region which is also a major destination of our exports, peace and stability in the region is particularly vital for India. We applaud President Putin’s role in seeking a political settlement in Syria and welcome the framework agreement worked out by Russia and the United States for a time-bound elimination of chemical weapons in Syria. We also value the Russian contribution to efforts for a peaceful resolution of the equally important Iranian nuclear issue.

Thirdly, we regard Russia as an important partner in shaping an inclusive, cooperative and rule-based regional security architecture in the Asia Pacific region, which is the focus of India’s Look East Policy.

Finally, as the world becomes increasingly multi-polar and emerging economies grow in strength, cooperation between Russia and India in multilateral forums, including the Group of 20 and BRICS, will assume greater importance. We have converging interests in non-proliferation, cyber security and space security. We also appreciate Russia’s support for India’s membership of international export control regimes and permanent membership of an UN Security Council.  

From our perspective, a strong, secure and prosperous Russia, fulfilling its international responsibilities, is in the interest of India and the world as a whole. Equally, a strong and broad-based partnership between Russia and India will be of great benefit to our two countries and can be a force of stability and prosperity in Eurasia and beyond.

Our shared interests, our growing opportunities for cooperation, the history of our relationship, our abiding comfort with each other and the warmth and goodwill between our people ensure that our strategic partnership will continue to grow in strength and relevance in this changing world. As I conclude, Ladies and Gentlemen  let me take the opportunity to give credit where it is due and emphasize that this owes a great deal to the vision and leadership of President Vladimir Putin, whose personal commitment to the relationship has led us to seek new heights in our relations. Every visit to Russia reaffirms to me the abiding comfort and confidence that mark our relationship. Every handshake reveals the warmth of the ties between our two people. Together, they create an unmatched platform for the future. I am looking forward to my meeting with President Putin this afternoon as yet another opportunity to take our special and privileged strategic partnership to even greater heights.

Once again, I thank you and the members of this great institution for the honour you have done me today and for this, unique opportunity to share my thoughts with you.”