Question: Four years ago India and Russia agreed to hold annual summits, and you will pay a new visit to New Delhi in December. To what extend do those summits strengthen the strategic cooperation between our two countries?
Vladimir Putin: Russia and India have established especially friendly and warm relations long ago, and our strategic cooperation is genuinely a historic choice. It is based not only on common international approaches and geopolitical interests, but also on the spiritual affinity of the two great cultures. Moreover, for a long time now, we have managed and continue to manage to find common ground on both the official, and just human level, and we were always interested in each other.
We attach particular significance to a regular high-level dialogue. Our annual summits strengthen mutual understanding between the two countries, including on the key issues of world politics. We have no ”forbidden“ themes between us. We discuss, inter alia, strategic stability, aspects of disarmament, UN activities, establishment of a global system to suppress terrorism and other threats of today's world, and, certainly, the issues of economic, humanitarian, cultural and scientific cooperation. Our technological partnership in such crucially important spheres as information and biological technologies, aircraft industry and outer space exploration, has broad prospects.
I should note that regular contacts are conducive to efficient accomplishment of practical tasks. They make it possible to speed up finding joint solutions to operational, including deadlocked, issues. As a result, in four years, we managed to considerably strengthen and expand our bilateral contract and legal framework of Russian-Indian interaction and to enrich it with new initiatives.
Annual meetings do promote cooperation between India and Russia, providing impetus to it. I would emphasize that an everyday life itself confirms that such a format of the political contacts between our countries is appropriate.
Question: You are going to have the first meeting with Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh, who represents the Indian National Congress (INC) party. Do you believe that this fact will bring anything new to our relations or will it be in keeping with the previous policy?
Vladimir Putin: In fact, I have already met Mr. Manmohan Singh in 2002. He was then a member of the INC Working Committee and participated in our meeting with Mrs.Sonia Gandhi, President of the INC.
I would like to say that Mr. Manmohan Singh is well-known in Russia. He is one of those who could be called ”young guards“ of Jawaharlal Nehru, who is highly respected in our country and who, in many respects, played a decisive role in successful economic reforms in India.
At the same time, I would like to stress that the current level of Russian-Indian partnership cannot and should not depend on internal transformations which are quite natural to democratic States. Our countries are already interacting along a clear-cut line, and all the leading political actors of India, including, certainly, the INC, have made a valuable contribution to its development. We have no doubt that the new Indian leadership will continue to pursue that course.
As we are aware, Mr. M.Singh is strongly committed to the policy of developing friendly relations with Russia. And I am looking forward to a new major progress in Russian-Indian cooperation, after the meeting in New Delhi.
Question: Would it be correct to consider that India and Russia are developing their cooperation in the oil industry and that New Deli invests in the Russian oil producing sector? Could you dwell upon that issue?
Vladimir Putin: Russia and India do expand cooperation in the field of oil industry. In doing so, they expect that investments would go not only to Russia. Implementation of projects in India is also scheduled.
As a successful example of Indian-Russian cooperation, I could quote the joint participation of the Indian Oil Corporation and Rosneft Russian oil corporation in the Sakhalin-1 project. The Indian oil corporation is ready to invest $1.7 bln. into that project, which would be its ever greatest foreign investment. As far as I know, drilling unit has been finalized and drilling works have already begun. Partners plan to start oil production in 2006.
On its part, India is working on an international tender for the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas reserves in the shelf of the Gulf of Bengal. Gazprom joint stock company which is a leading and, no doubt, reliable Russian company could participate in that project.
Russian firms, such as Zarubezhneft, Stroitransgaz, Neftegazexport, Tumenneftegeofizika also have an experience of work in India. They are prepared to render assistance in the field of exploration of its oil and gas deposits. What I would like to stress is that Russian firms will bring to India advanced technologies to increase production capacity of wells, restart ”idle“ oil fields and develop oil deposits difficult to extract. That is what is needed for fulfilling those productive tasks that are of special interest to India.
What is most important is that strengthening partnership between India and Russia in the field of energy is in the mutual interests of both economies. Presently, India imports up to 73% of oil it uses. It is well known that the new government of India aims at achieving 8 per cent annual economic growth. Hence, in the near term, fuel and energy requirements of the country are going to increase. Russia, being a long-term and traditional partner of India, is prepared to contribute to enhancing energy stability of the developing Indian economy, to the development of its fuel and energy sector.
Question: Last September, the whole world was horrified by massacres of schoolchildren in Beslan by Chechen terrorists. What measures have been taken to counteract the domestic terrorist threat in your country?
Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for the support rendered by the Indian people, government of India, in connection with the monstrous crime in Beslan. Those who tortured and shut children in Beslan are killers who are members of the ”terrorist international“. They do not and cannot have any excuses.
India, having experienced the grief of its recent history, has realized the monstrous and disgusting character of terror. Eminent citizens of your country, their recognized leaders, Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Mr. Rashif Gandhi were murdered. Thousands of innocent people became victims of terror. Courage displayed by the Indian people who managed to overcome those tragedies and unite to resist terrorism will be a leading example for all of us.
It is evident: the Beslan experience cannot but produce certain conclusions. International terrorism has declared a war to us. And we are obliged to meet that challenge and to protect adequately sovereignty and integrity of our country, life and peace of our citizens.
This should be a systematic activity. First, we should improve the efficiency of law enforcement bodies and special services. Their work should be commensurate with the tasks faced today by the whole society and special services in particular. Moreover, the interaction mechanisms, ways and means, working methods and modalities of law enforcement bodies should be commensurate with the nature and scope of the threats faced by Russia.
Second, measures to strengthen the unity of national executive bodies have been elaborated and partially implemented. I would like to emphasize that steps have been taken to consolidate democracy, federalism and civil society, as well as to promote the growth of major national political parties. I am convinced that it is only a politically structured and mature society that is able to form a responsible and workable power structure and to effectively counteract such threats as extremism, terrorism and separatism.
We intend to continue to use preventive methods against terrorists. However, our actions will be in strict compliance with the Russian legal and constitutional norms and rules of international law. In general, the whole range of activities to enhance the security of Russian citizens and to guarantee their constitutional rights will certainly be based on full respect of democratic values, consolidation and development of democratic institutions. It is for this specific purpose that the Russian Public Council is being created. It will be entrusted with civil expertise of major governmental decisions.
Question: Russia has been the leading advocate of the new UN Security Council resolution on counter-terrorism, which expanded the possibilities for counteracting terrorism. In your opinion, is the Security Council able to meet the challenges of terrorism faced by both Russia and India?
Vladimir Putin: I see what you mean by that. Indeed, much has been said about insufficient progress by the UN Security Council in organizing fight against terrorism. It should be made clear, however, that the mechanism in question is effective insofar as its members are ready to work jointly and decisively towards the common goal.
I am convinced that the international community should base its fight against terrorism on a clear strategy, effective institutional mechanisms and adequate international legal system. And there is no alternative to the UN in shaping such a global antiterrorist system. I would also note that Russia-sponsored Security Council resolution 1566 strengthens the UN role in the international fight against terrorism. In addition, the Security Council resolution provides a strong impetus to the work of the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, the principal UN coordinating body for counter-terrorism activities.
This resolution emphasizes that acts of terrorism are offences under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, ideological or religious nature and that persons guilty of terror should certainly be punished by penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes.
The provision, according to which States should bring to justice — on the basis of the principle ”extradite or prosecute“ — terrorists and individuals who support or facilitate their acts, is of paramount importance as well. We have long insisted on the inclusion of the above principle into the binding documents of the UN. It is a major step towards eliminating double standards, along with the clarification of the general understanding of terrorism.
I would note that this document was adopted unanimously. This is an evidence of unconditional support by the world community of approaches taken by Russia and understanding by our partners.
India and Russia share similar political principles of participation in the anti-terrorist coalition. We have already made a number of important joint steps. Thus, India spoke in favor of adopting a comprehensive convention against terrorism, while Russia, on its part, put forward a draft convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism. Bythe way, the latest resolution of the UN Security Council on terrorism encourages all countries to eliminate the existing obstacles on the way of adopting the Indian and Russian draft conventions.
Question: The problem of terrorism emerged not on September11, 2001, and is not limited to the US and Western Europe. India and Russia, on their part, made statements against the policy of ”double standards“ in the fight against terrorism. What can specifically be done to make the lives of Russians and Indians just as valuable as those of Americans or British?
Vladimir Putin: Of course, the problem of terrorism emerged not on September11 and is in no way limited to Western Europe and the US. Terrorism is a global and destructive phenomenon affecting all states and societies, mortally dangerous to all people in the world.
There can be no ”double standards“ in the fight against terrorism, otherwise this struggle would become ineffective or meaningless. Russia and India both have a common understanding of this fundamental principle.
However, not all of our partners demonstrate understanding of such seemingly apparent facts. Here, may I be permitted to make a stiff comment. As you are aware, one of the leaders of Chechen terrorists — A.Zakaev — continues to travel freely across European countries. The US authorities gave a safe haven to another envoy of terrorists — I.Akhmadov. Providing safe haven and support to terrorists, their accomplices and sponsors actually serves as a justification and, indeed, encouragement of their crimes. In our view, a tolerant attitude towards Zakaev, Maskhadov, Akhmadov and the like is an apparent recurrence of the notorious ”double standards“. Such steps undermine the unity and mutual trust of the participants of the anti-terrorist front.
May I remind you that according to UN decisions the states are obliged to verify, when providing asylum, that the person in question is not related to terrorism. However, somebody influenced by stereotypes or — which is particularly dangerous — hoping to get questionable political dividends, prefer to turn a blind eye on apparent facts.
Question: Do you think that the intrusion into Iraq weakened the campaign against international terrorism as a whole? Failure to arrest Osama bin Laden and his continuing threats mean that the ”Al Qaida“ network remains operative. Please, comment on that.
Vladimir Putin: We are alarmed by a difficult and dramatic situation in Iraq. Terrorist activities there are not diminishing while peaceful Iraqis and citizens of other states become victims of violence.
This is the threat Russia repeatedly warned the US and their allies about before the action taken against the Hussein regime. As predicted, after his fall Iraq and the whole world did not become more safe and secure.
One should understand that terrorist and extremist groups of all stripes, including ”Al Qaida“, are now actively using to their benefit the difficult situation that persists in Iraq for their cynical and criminal interests. As had been the case with Afghanistan, Iraq turned into a major hotbed of a terrorist threat, a firing ground and ”incubator“ for militants. It is here and now that thousands of future terrorists are being recruited by terrorist networks. Those forces, most probably, can be employed in other regions of the world.
There is yet another essential aspect worth speaking about. Differences over Iraq, and they were, I would remind you, rather considerable, and existed between the leading participants of the international anti-terrorist coalition, led to a significant slowdown of the development of international anti-terrorist interaction. Hence, it is of crucial importance that the activities aimed at combating ”the terrorist international“ be reduced to a common denominator. Actions undertaken by world community to counteract terrorism should start from international law, be concerted and united. Only in this case, will those endeavors bring up a necessary outcome required by all human race, i.e. victory over terrorism.
Russia has consistently supported the thesis that the situation in Iraq be settled through establishing a nation-wide dialogue in order to reach national accord and reconciliation. The United Nations already assisting the Iraqis to prepare for the first general elections should play a meaningful role in achieving that objective. We believe that successful elections held within the period specified in UN Security Council resolution1546 would be of fundamental importance.
Iraq and Russia have been good neighbours. And we are prepared to make our contribution to the reconstruction and revival of that country as a unified, stable and prosperous state.
Question: Before the US presidential election you supported the candidature of President George Bush since his defeat would result in the spread of terrorism to other parts of the world. Retrospectively, you showed insight when evaluating the US political situation. Do you believe that during his second term President George Bush will be less ”unilateral“ in his actions? Or are we most likely to witness another Iraq in some other place?
Vladimir Putin: Certainly Russia followed the recent US presidential election with great interest and attention. It is only natural since progress in our bilateral relations and interaction in international affairs depend also on the approach taken by the US leaders.
We have repeatedly stated that we were prepared to work with any Administration that would enjoy confidence of the American people. At the same time, the recent achievements in the US-Russian relations became possible to a large extent thanks to the constructive policy pursued by George Bush — politician and statesman whom we consider to be our reliable partner and ally in the war against terrorism. It is because of that, that I took the greatest pleasure to congratulate him for his well-deserved victory. I am convinced that under the second term of George Bush Administration the Russian-American cooperation will be no less dynamic and fruitful.
This does not mean that there are no differences between the US and Russia; however we resolve them through dialogue taking into account our countries' long-term interests. We build our relations based on developing equal and mutually advantageous ties, jointly dealing with new challenges and threats, first of all those relating to international terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, organized crime and drug-trafficking.
Those global challenges and threats of the new millenium can only be met collectively. There is a growing understanding of this evident fact globally. Developments in Iraq have once again proved that unilateral actions are counterproductive. I will be frank: in my talks with many foreign leaders I used to hear the following question: ”If global affairs are to be dealt with according to the ‘Iraqi model’, how can we guarantee our countries' security and sovereignty?“ We have repeatedly called our American partners' attention to this reality. And eventually, they realised the need to reach a political settlement in Iraq using the UN mechanisms. I believe that the new Administration will undoubtedly bear in mind ”Iraqi lessons“ when determining its foreign policy.
Question: They say quite a lot about global multilaterality and multipolarity, but the world appears today even more unipolar than ever before. Is Russia capable of (and interested in) assuming a leading role in restoring a certain balance in world affairs?
Vladimir Putin: I do not think it is possible in principle to create a unipolar system of international relations. Interdependence of states and interdependence of national economies are growing. Most civilization development factors — both negative and positive — are acquiring a global character. No single state, even the most powerful one, can cope alone with terrorism, numerous local conflicts, social diseases and, thus, is not able to provide global stability and progress. All those problems can only be solved through multilateral cooperation under the UN auspices. Russia is ready to make its contribution, moreover, it is already contributing constructively to this common work.
Question: Russia has taken a principled position to support India as the candidate to the UNSC permanent membership. Presently, India together with Brazil, Japan and Germany, have formed a quartet trying to reform the Security Council. However it seems, that the SC reform is far away. Can Russia do anything to accelerate this process?
Vladimir Putin: Our support of India in this regard is in line with our consistent policy and is not subject to volatile fluctuations. It reflects the principled position of Russia. Its essence is that should the UN Security Council expand — due to the inclusion of new permanent and non-permanent members — major states, pursuing an independent foreign policy based on the UN Charter, should be represented in it.
As to the UN reform, any possible transformations in that important, backbone institution should be implemented on the basis of the broadest possible consensus. It is only in this case that any reform can be truly efficient and, what is more important, legitimate in the eyes of the international community. At the same time, we consider it inappropriate to reduce the sophisticated complex of the UN modernization only to the expansion of its Security Council. Other aspects of the reform — institutional, socio-economic, and humanitarian — should not remain hostages of the UNSC membership reform.