Interview with Vinay Shukla
Russia Today: Sixty years of independence. How has life changed for people in India in the last six decades?
V.S.: It's very difficult to tell it two words how life has changed, but I can say about my example. In early 60s we used to get wheat and other things from Russia, but today we are net exporters of food items. So we have enough food. Our population has doubled since then.
RT: But with population this big India has the poverty issue. What does the country do about that?
V.S.: A lot of things. As a citizen I would say the government could do more then it is doing, but a lot is being done. Life has really changed. A lot of positive change is there, but it is diverted by rapid change of the population in India.
RT: Would you say the last 60 years were a successful example of democracy?
V.S.: Yes, I think that the main reason why India with such diversity – so many languages, ethnic group, religions – is living more or less in a harmony is because of democracy.
RT: Do you recall what the feeling was during the first years of independence? Was it a time of great promise?
V.S.: Actually, I was born after India became independent, so I don't remember much, but my parents told me a lot. Of course there were very few people then who got good jobs, and others felt a little sorry about the British going away. But still the transition was more or less smooth for the bureaucracy and for the system, and our leadership was very well educated. We Indians should be very grateful to God that our leaders who took power after the British were such educated people.
RT: What are the relations between India and Russia?
V.S.: I would say the relations between Russia and India are a very interesting thing. Despite the Soviet-time break-up our relations are now developing quite well. Our diplomats often say that after the Second World War there was no other example of so much diversity in relations. Now we are sticking together – that's because our strategic interests coincide of course.
RT: What about economic ties? Both economies are booming now. Is there much co-operation between India and Russia?
V.S.: No – and this is a paradox. We have political and defence co-operation going on between us very well, but there's hardly any business. There is a problem with lack of information for the tow countries to develop business. There's also the general public opinion issue. India is mostly part of the Anglo-Saxon world, and we get this Anglo-Saxon view of Russia.
RT: What do you think the future is between India and Russia now?
V.S.: Well, new things are coming up. For example India is the biggest producer of cut diamonds, and Russia is the biggest producer of rough diamonds. It all used to go via Israel and other places to India for cutting and then went beck – now it's going directly. It's a new opening, and a very promising one.