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7 Dec, 2009 17:50

Medvedev: we need no new nuke club members

Russia does not want to see more countries developing nuclear weapons - that's according to Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at a news-conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Moscow.

Resulting from the Monday negotiations between President Dmitry Medvedev and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the two nations have signed accords on strategic partnership in different fields, including civil nuclear energy development and co-operation in defense.

As promised earlier, the talks proved to be very fruitful. The Indian Prime Minister and the Russian President discussed how the two countries are going together to build aircrafts, oil and gas pipelines and work in space.

Military co-operation is the key

Meanwhile, military co-operation remains the cornerstone of India’s relations with Russia, as it has for the last forty years.

The signed agreement on military co-operation includes the after-sales support on Russian arms.

A separate agreement was signed on co-operation in civil nuclear technology.

“I will be frank with you that Russia is not interested in increasing the number of nuclear weapons club members,” Dmitry Medvedev iterated at a media briefing he gave with Manmohan Singh after the talks. “Research in the nuclear area should be strictly peaceful. We are closely watching what is going on, for that matter, in the proximity to our borders with our neighbors.”

Fighting global threat of terrorism

A joint declaration signed by two nations proclaims that Russia and India share common challenges such as terrorism, and the recent attack on Nevsky Express train in Russia is an echo of the terrorist attack in Mumbai. The international terror theme was very high on the agenda during the two leaders’ meeting.

“We have close approaches to many international issues and of course we are concerned about global security. Terrorism is one of the subjects here, and both our countries support the earlier-adopted international comprehensive convention on terrorism,” commented Russian president.

Manmohan Singh reminded those present that both Russia and India are victims of terrorism.

“It is my privilege to say that I entirely endorse what President Medvedev has just mentioned. That is an indication of how similar our views are when it comes to global and regional issues. Our co-operation in counter-terrorism can extend to co-operation on the international level. President Medvedev has mentioned the comprehensive convention on anti-terrorism that happens to be one such area,” Manmohan Singh said at the media briefing.

On the way to Moscow, the Indian prime minister said that he would ask the Russian side to use their influence on Pakistan to prevent terrorist attacks like the one that was carried out in Mumbai.

The Indian Prime Minister is also expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin later on Monday and it is expected that the topic of terrorism will be raised again.

The economy angle

From the very beginning, Moscow wanted to make it clear that Moscow is going to deliver something more concrete to the Indians than just goodwill talks, such as access to Russian natural resources, such as oil and gas deposits.

The tone for the talks was set by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday, when he had an unofficial meeting with Dmitry Medvedev in the President’s countryside residence, when Prime Minister said that relations with Russia are the most important for India. Both India and Russia are part of the BRIC economic bloc of fast developing countries, the others being Brazil and China. These four countries combined represent 40% of the world’s population and a quarter of the planet’s landmass.

The trade turnover between Russia and India alone is expected to be some US$10 billion in 2010. Thus, trade is going to top the agenda of the leaders’ meeting.

Ahead of the visit to Russia, the Indian Prime Minister also said that oil and gas co-operation would be at the top of the list of negotiations. The Indian state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) is successfully developing Sakhalin-1 gas deposit, an ambitious project on Sakhalin Island in the Pacific in Russia’s Far East. A subsidiary of this Indian corporation owns Imperial Energy, which is working in western Siberia.

RT political analyst Peter Lavelle commented that “Russia and India are two countries on the way up. They believe that the BRIC countries are the future and we saw that today. They do not need to look to the West. They can look to each other.”

Natalya Stapran, a political analyst from Moscow State University of International Relations, states that besides military and defense issues, economic and other different kinds of cooperation are very important today for the two countries.

“The target set by the leaders of the two countries by 2015 is $20 billion per year,” said Stapran. “To reach this target, the two countries should differentiate their trade baskets, to develop not only commodities but also different cooperation in hi-tech technologies, for example, the project of Sakhalin, where Indian companies participate actively, and nuclear stations in South India.”

Strategic partnership

As time has proven, Russia-India relations are not about buying and selling. The two had a strategic partnership during the Soviet period, and the war in Afghanistan in 1979-1989 in particular. India is a good example for Russia in many terms. Being a country with a population of over 1 billion people, India is the most consistent democracy with such a population. Like Russia, India has a significant Muslim population – the second largest in the world – but neither Al-Qaeda nor Taliban have managed to establish a foundation on Indian territory. Experience in counteracting terrorism will be discussed today in Kremlin, too.

Speaking ahead of the visit to Russia with the Russian press, the Indian PM said that “Russia is a great friend of our country. It stood by us at the most difficult times. Russia and India can work together to devise effective counter-terrorist strategies. We can help each other.”