President Vladimir Putin: I will try to respond to some of the questions that have been raised here.
I am very pleased to see that the Sakhalin-1 project is developing and I am sure that it will continue to develop just as well. We know that our Indian partners are interested in developing cooperation on other projects too, Sakhalin-3, for example. Our colleague mentioned contacts with Rosneft today. We will give all the support we can to making progress here, just as we will continue to support expanding cooperation with other Russian energy companies.
Regarding the question of unprocessed diamonds, I want to inform you that just a few days ago I signed a decree that abolishes quotas for diamonds. This makes direct contacts with Alrosa all the more attractive, so please go ahead and organise your cooperation, we have no objections, and this is why we have signed the relevant documents.
Turning to some practical questions now, we do indeed have many interesting and promising forms of cooperation and areas of work, including some that are quite new. There are problems of a systemic nature such as that of optimising transport routes. In this respect, I want to inform you that we are very seriously studying ways to improve Russia’s ports, because, as you correctly pointed out, a sizeable amount of trade currently goes through ports in other regions – in the Baltic states, Scandinavia and Europe as a whole. Two draft laws are currently in their final stages: one on ports in general and one on special economic zones within ports. I hope that both documents will be approved by the different government agencies very soon and will be adopted, and I think that this will help to develop direct transport links and improve the infrastructure for our cooperation.
Looking at banking cooperation, our Russian and Indian colleagues both spoke about this matter, and we have agreed that we will take mutual steps to support the expansion of cooperation in this sector, open branch networks and obtain licences to work on the Indian and Russian markets. I would like to address an appeal to our Indian partners and say that we need your support, the support of your government and the support of the Indian Central Bank. We hope that India will put in place the conditions for Russian financial institutions to be able to expand their activities here.
Now, on the subject of visas, we have signed an agreement with the European Union on simplifying visa requirements for a number of categories of EU and Russian Federation citizens. This covers sportspeople, students, scientists and politicians – five or six categories in total, including businesspeople. But when we did this, we also accepted one of the demands of our European partners and signed a readmission agreement, which gives us a certain number of responsibilities. I think that our Indian friends would agree that if we have taken on these responsibilities with regard to Europe, we now have to apply these same principles to our relations with our other partners. We are now part of the system of international relations in such a way that simplifying visa procedures with other countries is not possible unless we also settle the readmission issue. We ask for your understanding on this matter. This issue also came up during my last visit to India. I remember this, and I know that our foreign ministry has its instructions, and though I think it is natural that you are putting pressure on the Russian side, I would be grateful if you would also put pressure on the Indian side to conclude a readmission agreement.
I cannot but agree with the proposal to expand the possibility of using the rupee debt, because, to speak frankly to you as members of the Russian and Indian business communities, the current limits on using the rupee debt only serve to create preferences for certain companies, while other companies, working in areas other than the supply of tea or other traditional goods, have only very limited possibilities or none at all. We support legalising these possibilities and in this respect I fully share your views. But I repeat that this is a matter for agreement between our foreign ministries and our governments in general.
We are completely on your side on this issue and we are complete allies.
Now, looking at what we need to do to improve our economic cooperation, I agree with the Indian colleague who said that we are living in completely market conditions today and that our economies are completely market economies. So, what needs to be done? We have talked a lot about what should be done today and in answering your questions I have tried to set out my position on this issue. We need to put in place the infrastructure for our cooperation, and I fully agree with this point. You think that Russia is not sure that India would be able to deliver good, high-quality goods to our market outside its traditional exports. But if what you said at the start is true and we are living in market conditions, then whether Russia has confidence or not is not so much the issue, for what you need to do is simply conquer the market and prove, on the market, that Indian goods are just as good as anyone else’s and perhaps even better. We, for our part, are ready to put in place the conditions that would allow you to enter our market with confidence even in areas that are not your traditional production sectors.
I think that the basic conditions are already in place, and we have already spoken today about what they consist of. One of our Indian colleagues today mentioned that Russia has the third-biggest gold and currency reserves in the world after Japan and China. Our gold and currency reserves now come to more than $300 billion. But this is not the only condition ensuring the Russian economy’s stability and development. This is just one of the conditions. The other is sustainable growth rate in the Russian economy. As I already said, we do still have a high level of inflation, but there is a clear downward trend. The national currency and the country’s financial system in general are quite stable, and we have also made clear progress in the main task, that of diversifying the Russian economy.
Finally, political and social stability are also important factors. They are based on a rise in people’s incomes that is still far from satisfying us, but that nonetheless is showing steady growth. All of this is what constitutes the market. As the Prime Minister said to me today at lunch, India sold 1 million cars on its domestic market last year. India is a huge country with an enormous population. We in Russia sold 2 million cars last year. There you have the market, also for non-traditional goods. It is a real market. We are certain that we can ensure continued steady growth in the Russian economy and rising incomes for our people. These are precisely the basic conditions that enable us to develop our cooperation. And developing our cooperation will most certainly help us to reach our primary goal, that of making our peoples more prosperous. I want to wish you success in this noble work.
Thank you for your attention.