- ADU interviews Indian Ambassador to Russia on the sidelines of International Military Technical Forum Army 2021 at Indian Pavilion, Patriot Park, Moscow
Patriot Park, Moscow. 25 August 2021. “We’re happy that there’s more and more cooperation between Russian defence industry and our private industry. Our private industry is growing up very fast in India. They are capable of producing very high technology products. And the more capabilities you show, the better partners you are able to have internationally. And I can say while India is friends with a very large number of countries, the Russia India Partnership is unique because of its strong history. It’s principles of trust and corporate and the very large number of success stories that already are there,” said Indian Ambassador to Russia His Excellency DB Venkatesh Varma in an exclusive interview to Aviation & Defence Universe (ADU) at Army 2021 in Moscow.
ADU. We are here at the Army Forum 2021 in Moscow and how will this help in increasing Indo-Russian ties?
Amb. Venkatesh Varma . Warm Greetings to your news and business. Thank you for the interest in India Russia relations. And thank you for coming to Moscow and attending the International Army Games and exhibition of 2021. We have a big delegation as you’ve seen, you’ve interacted with many of them, headed by Secretary for Defense Production in Mr. Raj Kumar, a number of major PSUs and private categories. We have a big Pavilion, as you’ve seen, displaying what India is done. It is not only our symbol friendship with Russia and the defence sector, which is a very important pillar of our cooperation and a special privilege strategic partnership regarded is a long standing, more than 60 years old, but also how India has grown as a defence power.
It is a difference industry which is now making its mark in the international system. And this is a very good occasion to display and show what India is capable of. And we were very happy. A very good Indian delegation, despite all the complications that arise from the COVID Pandemic is in Moscow. We had excellent discussions, have seen through many of them. So our priorities are very clear to the Russian side and we have clear priorities of Atmanirbhar and Make in India in defence programs is something that is making a lot of progress, a lot of receptivity on the Russian side, a lot of support. And we are looking at many instances where India and Russia can work together to make decisions, a success. So this is a happy story from Moscow and I am glad you are able to see it for yourself.
ADU. We’ve got India Russia military ties which are strong and some little hitches, which come with time. Were you able to smoothen them out for the future contracts to go through smoothly with the presence of the Secretary DP? Are there some developments on the fronts where there were blockages?
Amb. Venkatesh Varma. Yeah, sure. That is part of the conversation. Any big relationship, an evolving relationship always has things that we are presently on track and something that we look for the future. What is on track we wish to make them as efficient and as smooth as possible, but there a number of spare part supplies that come from the Russians. These have been smoothened to a very large extent. But wherever they are hit, I think occasions like this give us an opportunity to smoothen them out. We’re also looking at some new projects like AK-203 is something that you mentioned will be an extraordinary important project. It will be Make an India project. It will be a joint venture between Russian Concern Kalashnikov and Ordnance Factory Board and it is called the India Russia Rifles Joint Venture. It will be based in up substantially over a period of time a majority of our Indian armed forces would be armed with AK-203. It is one of the world’s most foremost advanced assault rifles. So that’s a huge jump. It is also a huge jump in terms of making in India because in a graduated pace, there will be 100% transfer of technology. So after a certain point of time the rifles that will be produced in India AK-203 will be 100% Indian. And that after we complete the requirements of our Indian armed forces there will be India para military forces and of course, the opportunities will open up for export of this item to third countries.
We are building also two frigates in Russia and two more will be build in India. Our delegation has gone there to see whether these are on track. I can also mention the S- 400 deal, is also on track. There are a number of other items on which we are engaging with Russia presently like we want certain top up numbers for Su-30Mki and the Mig 29. Those are moving forward. India Russia Defence Cooperation is very active as you see. Last month we had the pleasure of hosting the Indian Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh who was here to attend the 325 Russian Navy Day in St Petersburgh. INS Tabar was also at the event and participated in exercises with Russian Navy.
We also had a Mechanized Infantry Brigade participating in the Indra 2021 in Volvograd. It was a extraordinarily successful joint exercise not just in terms of techniques , manoeuvres and exercises, but also the camaraderie and the friendship that was displayed between the Indian and Russian Armies. So on the whole, we are moving ahead.Of course, Defence Minister of Russia, General Shaigu is expected to visit India for the India Russia Joint Commission, which he co-chairs along with our Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who share a great relationship.
I conveyed to Gen Shaigu warm regards from our Defence Minister this morning when he was there at the India Pavilion. More importantly, India and Russia have agreed to establish a new mechanism of consultation called the Two Plus Two, whose first meeting will take place before the end of the year in parallel to the meeting of the joint commission. So there’s good preparations going on as well. But to top it all, I think there’s excellent understanding between Prime Minister Modi and President Putin on defense matters which will translate at the summit level. It always translate into very good support for implementing specific issues of operation.
The international system is very complicated. As you can see, the recent events in Afghanistan have shown once again that India and Asia need to work together. We face common challenges, common interest. But most importantly, I can tell you this, my experience as the Indian ambassador here, Russia is fully supportive of India’s priorities in the defence sector, Make an India program and Atmanirbhar Bharat program. Brahmos is an excellent example. In fact, is the first example of Make in India of an internationally recognized missile system of highest global standards. So we already have a very good tradition. We are to move forward in the area of new mechanised armour, in the area of building new helicopters, in the area of building the transport aircraft , so the field is pretty wide.
And it’s also India also has a very large inventory of Russian origin equipment. So what we are trying to do is to create facilities in India that can service Russian origin equipment not just for India, but also for also for third countries, which also have equipment from Russia. So we are moving in that direction as well. So the future is very promising. We’re confident that this is something that we can take forward, which would be a beneficial for both companies.
ADU. Russia being the biggest CIS nation does your role as Ambassador overplay in the other CIS nations’ defence manufacturing?
Amb. Venkatesh Varma. Yeah, sure. I am Ambassador to Russia only . Our relations the various CIS countries, specially Central Asian countries are good and we have Ambassadors for each of them individually. And we have independent relations with each of the CIS nations and Central Asian States. But that doesn’t mean that there is no scope for cooperation on common issues. For example, the T-72 Tanks , which is a tank produced of Russian origin, is there with India, which is also there with many of the Central Asian States. So obviously, when there’s such commonality, when you look at repair, necessities or modernisation or upgrades or development of the new technologies, this already creates an excellent base for India, Russia and Central Asia to work together. And there are some proposals for precisely achieving these objectives.
ADU. Will the two plus two dialogue between India and Russia happen in Russia?
Amb. Venkatesh Varma. We expect the ministerial dialogue to take place in Delhi, but we also expect some preparatory meetings to happen in Russia. So there will be some preparatory meetings in Moscow, but the actual two plus four meeting would be held in India.
ADU. The Embassies for various nations have a big role to play in developing MSME partnerships between India and different nations is a topic of discussion in India. Is it a more of an embassy task than industry’s?
Amb. Venkatesh Varma. No, it is a role that has to be performed by everyone. And Embassies of course, having responsibility in duty to reach out to MSMEs, the small and medium enterprise sector and big the right connections, which we’ve already done in with Russia. We have something called the Military Industrial Conference MIC, which creates a platform for the defence industries for both sides to come together. Our Defence Minister had come in 2019. And we had held a very major defence industry conference but due to COVID 19 it could not be held in 2020 in a major way. But these sort of platforms for dialogue are held in every big events designed to bring the small companies together in a big way. For example, in Aero India, when the Russian delegation visited Bangalore or DefExpo in Lucknow, UP there are always on the sidelines some events designed to bring the small companies together. Because as we’ve seen in Europe, you have the big companies, the big producer, the big aggregator. But many of the components, the high technology components are built at the SMEs level, and the SMEs are actually the real strength going into the future. So we have every intention to support them , every intention to create the right connections. And there’s a lot of receptivity from the Russian site as well to work with this sector in India.
As told to Sangeeta Saxena, Editor, ADU