Question: Your visit to India will be the first such high-level bilateral visit in eight years. And we would like to ask you what factors have contributed to the strategic alliance between Russia and India? What are the prospects of global cooperation between our countries and what will be your main aim during this visit?
Vladimir Putin: I think these factors have been well known for a long time. They are based on the national interests of India and Russia. In my opinion, Russia and India can very effectively complement each other.
Russia adheres to the theory of preserving the strategic balance in the world, in its various regions. India, in my opinion, is a key factor in world politics, not only regional politics but, I stress, in world politics. And we are interested in maintaining relations with such a great power as India in pursuing the goals that we seek to achieve internationally: stabilisation and the creation of a modern democratic world order, and the goals that we set in bilateral relations. Russia and India are also natural partners in terms of their mutually complementary economic, scientific and technological potential.
Question: Mr Putin, in 1994 our countries signed the Moscow declaration on protecting the interests of multi-national states. It speaks about the need to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states, protection against religious fundamentalism and encroachments upon sovereignty and territorial integrity.
What can be done in order to successfully combat these forces?
Vladimir Putin: I think we can move forward in at least two areas.
First, our mutual efforts and mutual support. There is a lot we can discuss and do together. And we can do it effectively. That involves exchange of information and mutual political support, and cooperation between the special agencies and services of our countries.
But there is another very important aspect. Both India and Russia could fight terrorism, including international terrorism and fundamentalism and any forms of extremism. We could move forward in a way to put a barrier at the international level to all the extremist forces to render their efforts fruitless and futile. I think India and Russia could combine their efforts to a considerable effect in this area.
Question: Mr Putin, the traditional bonds between Russia and India in the field of military-technical cooperation are known to be very strong. Do you believe that the relations between India and Russia should be based on military-technical cooperation or are there other priorities?
Vladimir Putin: Our military-technical cooperation with India is highly productive. In our opinion, the prospects are good. But this is not the only area of our joint work. We intend to discuss other, equally promising areas with the Indian leadership.
I can tell you that at present we have implemented about 20 projects in various fields. And 132 more projects are slated for implementation and have already been approved by government bodies in the two countries. It includes cooperation in the field of high technologies, bio-engineering, medicine, space exploration, and energy, various aspects of energy.
We have prepared a long-term programme of cooperation in the scientific and technical sphere to the year 2010, and a corresponding document which will form the basis of our joint work in the field of computer technologies. There is a wide field of joint efforts, and I am sure that these areas will be no less interesting and no less promising than military-technical cooperation.
Question: Going back to your visit to India. To be frank, many people in India have a feeling that in the past decade Russia has forgotten the bonds of old friendship and has turned its attention to the West. And there was a very warm response to your words when you said that you were India’s best friend in Russia.
Vladimir Putin: We have a saying, an old friend is better than two new ones. Indeed, this is the first such official visit in the last eight years. But it does not mean that Russia has downgraded cooperation with India. It has to do with our internal situation.
When I said that I was the best friend of India in Russia, I had in mind the following. First, from what I said, it is clear that there are many friends of India in Russia. I am only one of them. But because of my official position I am the main friend of India.
Secondly, there are circumstances I mentioned at the start of our talk today. It is our long-term position that India as one of the biggest countries in Asia and the world is a key factor of stability on the planet and in the region. Russia is interested in India playing a key role in international affairs. This is in our national interests. I haven’t the slightest doubt that such an approach fully meets the national interests of India itself.
So I would like to stress that our cooperation is not directed against anyone, it is for the benefit of both India and Russia. It pursues the interests of the two countries, but these interests fully meet those of the international community.
Question: Russia is often said to be more of an Asian than a European country. But Asia is an incredibly complicated region with a host of acute problems, such as economic rivalry between China and India, strategic rivalry in other fields, the problems of terrorism and religious fundamentalism. How do you see the Russian role in this region?
Vladimir Putin: You have rightly noted that Russia is situated both in Europe and in Asia, with a significant part of Russia with its huge resources located in Asia. Naturally, we have our interests there. We are interested in that region’s stability and prosperity. It is an obvious fact.
I have already stressed that our cooperation with India is not directed against any third countries, it is in our interest to see India as a powerful, developed and independent country and a substantial factor in international affairs. We see it as an element of balance in the world, and we will do everything to preserve this state of affairs. Herein lies the strategic importance of our partnership. Our cooperation is not geared to just short-term unilateral benefits. Russia will maintain the best of relations with all its neighbours in Asia: with China, Japan and Korea. We want the region to be stable and prosperous. And in this context, partnership with India plays a leading role in our work.
Question: How will the strategic partnership document you are going to sign differ from the 1971 Treaty between India and the Soviet Union? Will there be continuity between the treaties or will it contain some cardinally new factors?
Vladimir Putin: There will be elements of continuity, of course. But without any doubt we and our Indian partners will have to bear in mind that the world has changed, Russia has changed, the balance of forces in the world has changed and some priorities have changed. All that will be reflected in the document we hope to sign. And we expect that the document will be the basis for our relations in all other fields.
I would like to stress that several other documents on various fields of cooperation are to be signed. But the declaration you have referred to should be the fundamental document. It should set down the principles of our relations. Speaking about tradition and continuity, I can say that just like the former treaties, that treaty will be based on the fundamental principles of international law and the United Nations Charter, but it will reflect the new realities and the new goals and objectives that we see in the cooperation between the two states.
Question: Mr Putin, “strategic” is a very important word. What do you mean by “strategic”? Do you mean some kind of military alliance or something else? What exactly do you mean by “strategic”?
Vladimir Putin: “Strategic” does not mean military. It does not mean the creation of any military alliance or bloc. When we say “strategic” we mean “long-term”, “intended for a long period of time and based on the pragmatic national interests of the two states,” especially in the context of globalisation and mounting international competition. I mean of course not military rivalry, but above all competition in the economic, technical and scientific spheres.
Question: The relations between the United States and India are becoming closer, the two leaders have exchanged successful visits. What are the implications of this for Russia?
Vladimir Putin: We know well that with the breakdown of the Soviet Union the ideological foundations of our state have changed. The communist ideology is no longer prevalent in Russia, and our priorities have changed. Today Russia does not consider the United States to be an opponent, let alone an enemy. Today the United States, one of the biggest countries in the world, is a partner of the Russian Federation.
We have different approaches to some issues and problems that are of concern to the humankind, different approaches to security, the preservation of anti-missile defence, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. We have differing views on how certain conflicts can be resolved. We are in favour of a multi-polar world, respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We have discussions with our American partners on the many problems I have just mentioned. But it is not a hostile or aggressive discussion. So we can only welcome the development of India’s relations with all the states, including the United States. We are convinced that in the context of globalisation, with all its pluses and minuses, a fierce struggle is unfolding with results that are hard to predict, and the areas in which the interests of some countries coincide can and must be areas of joint activity. We have many such areas with India, and in that sense Russia and India are natural partners and allies.
Question: How would you describe the new relations you seek to build with India?
Vladimir Putin: We want these to be relations between equal partners based on the recognition of sovereignty, territorial integrity and each other’s legitimate interests. We want a precise and clear awareness of where we can help and support each other. We want our actions in these areas to be concerted and effective.
Question: Can you describe the new relations that you seek to establish between Russia and India as a new deal?
Vladimir Putin: You know, if we say it is a new deal, that would not be enough. When we speak about full-scale relations between two countries which have many interests in common, many areas in which we can effectively promote the national interests of each other, it is more than a deal. It is perhaps destiny.
Question: An economic question. In spite of the active military-technical cooperation between our countries, India’s economy is based on the private sector. In the light of this, how can we work with Russia?
Vladimir Putin: We know what is happening in India, especially in the field of computer technologies, programming, etc. But I have already said that our joint efforts with our Indian colleagues and the Indian leaders are aimed at diversifying our joint work, at investing it with substance that meets the requirements of today. These are above all cooperation in the field of high technologies, space and energy. Our enterprises intend to develop India’s natural resources together with the Indian companies in the interests of India.
We are ready to work with you in the medical field. In many areas Russia is a very advanced country, its achievements having been recognised in the world. We can combine our efforts to gain the maximum effect.
Question: Mr Putin, studies have shown that in the next five to eight years India will become one of the leading countries in computer technologies. How do you see Russian-Indian scientific-technical cooperation in this context?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I know. That is why we are preparing a whole programme of joint activities in the field of modern computer technologies. For Russia it is very significant, considering its insufficiently developed communications and transport infrastructure in proportion to its vast territory. Modern communications, the Internet and computer technologies are critical. But to be full-fledged partners, Russia has a long way to go to computerise the country. But we have given it a lot of thought, and we are sure to move forward in that direction.
Question: One of the main problems that caused a decline in Russian-Indian trade is that in the early 1990s Russia curtailed investments into countries that were old friends. Does such cooperation have a future in India, I mean Russian investments in India?
Will this problem be solved in the same way as the West reacted to the problems in Russia? And what will be your relations like with the old friends?
Vladimir Putin: That is understandable. The problems Russia experienced after the break-up of the Soviet Union naturally focused the attention of the Russian people and the Russian leadership on domestic problems. Dramatic changes took place in the country, the borders were thrown open. It was natural for the entire so-called “Eastern Bloc” to want to get to know the world and Western civilisation closer, to be exposed to the values that had emerged there during the existence of the Iron Curtain. There is nothing strange about that.
As for what the Soviet Union had done in India in the past, the capacity built with Soviet technical assistance, I think that the fact that Russia is now developing its relations with Western Europe and North America need not be an obstacle to restoring its relations with such a vast country and a reliable partner as India. I am stressing this not because I want to please you. India has indeed proved to be a very reliable partner over the years. We are aware of it and we appreciate it. So, that opens up two areas of activity.
First, we can and must cooperate in order to restore and repair the facilities built earlier with Russian technical assistance. Secondly, because we are also promoting cooperation with the leading industrialised countries and major companies of the world, we could use the results of Russian research and development and what we are currently developing with our partners from Western Europe and North America jointly with our Indian partners. So, growing contacts between Russia and the Western partners need not be an obstacle and will not be an obstacle to the development of links with India. On the contrary, it will lend a new quality to our relations with the Indian partners. I think and I hope that this will be the case.
Question: Mr Primakov, the former Prime Minister, spoke about possible strategic ties between India, China and Russia. Do you think an alliance between the three great powers is possible in the near future?
Vladimir Putin: Bilateral relations are the priority. Bilateral relations, on the one hand, and the building up of the architecture of international relations as a whole, including Asia, involving all the interested states. India, China and Russia are undoubtedly among them. Everyone will understand us if we say that India, China and Russia have shared interests in this region, interests which we want to pursue together. I see nothing special or dangerous about it. What is important is that the proposals in the sphere of cooperation, both bilateral and multi-lateral, be open to all our partners and be clear and transparent. And I think we can achieve that.
Question: Did the Indian nuclear tests come as a surprise to you? How do you see the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty? It is an interesting question in the light of the ratification of the treaty by the State Duma.
Vladimir Putin: We have had long and fruitful cooperation with India in the field of nuclear energy, in the field of peaceful use of atomic energy. We think it would be proper if India settles all its issues with the international organisations that monitor work in this sphere, notably the IAEA. We have some understandings with the Indian leadership on that issue. All Russian plans in this field strictly comply with the obligations Russia has assumed under relevant international agreements.
Question: In the last two or three years, especially after the Indian nuclear tests, what has been India’s standing in the nuclear field? Do you consider India to be a nuclear state?
Vladimir Putin: I have said what our position is: India must coordinate all its nuclear activities with the international community. We do not believe that new nuclear states have appeared in the world, and we do not think that if we recognised the fact the consequences of such recognition would benefit the countries that claim such a status.
We call on all the countries that are active in this sphere not to be in a hurry. We call on them to think, together with the international community, about the consequences that may be in store for them in terms of their national interests inside the country, in their relations with their neighbours and how the world community would perceive all this.
I think that at present the situation in the region and the world is such that there is no need to take hasty decisions. On the contrary, there are grounds for calmly discussing all the pros and cons, with an eye to creating an architecture of international relations that would guarantee to all the states, and in our case the states in the region, territorial integrity and sovereignty, and secure their national interests. Given effective international assistance, such options exist.
Question: As you know, India seeks to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Would Russia support such a move and what is Russia’s thinking on the problem of the Security Council enlargement?
Vladimir Putin: My personal opinion is that the United Nations and its Security Council is the main organisation for securing international peace and resolving conflicts. It is a major international organisation, it is part of the legacy built up over decades by previous generations which we have inherited and which we must use competently and effectively. The UN is not only the Security Council. It is a huge organisation which deals with large-scale issues involving the interests of a great number of international protagonists. It was created after the Second World War and reflected the alignment of forces in the world at the time.
Life changes and the international situation changes. If the organisation is to be effective, it must transform itself. We understand it and we believe that this is what should be done and a decision to the effect has to be taken. We should think and work to increase the number of permanent Security Council members. Needless to say, India as a leading world country and one of our major partners is one of the most credible candidates for that role and that place.
Question: Mr Putin, a philosophical question, if I may. The saying goes that India is a philosophy. A way of life. Last week, you discussed the issue of fundamental values with Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Many people in India are wondering what are the fundamental values in today’s Russia? Especially now that there is so much talk about pragmatism and capitalism. Earlier there was talk about a national idea and now you are talking about fundamental values. What are these values?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, indeed, it is a very relevant issue for Russia, because for many decades the fundamental value was the communist ideology. As it left the political scene, a certain vacuum was created. You know, Russia is not going to, is unable to and should not invent anything new. No other fundamental values except patriotism, love for country, love for home, love for one’s people, religious values and cultural values – all that forms the basis of our being. All that makes us a nation, all that makes us an original people different from other peoples, and all that we are proud of, all this will build the basis of the idea you have just mentioned. Russia has no need to invent anything new and it will hardly differ in any fundamental way from other peoples, including the Indian people.
Question: You once mentioned philosophy and lifestyle. What did you have in mind? Is it connected with judo? Is judo a philosophy for you?
Vladimir Putin: Judo cultivates some principles that I consider to be universal. They have to do not only with sports, but they can and must form the basis of relations among people. Above all, it is respect for the partner, any partner. It is respect for elders, for teachers, an approach to solving problems based not on brute force, but on skill, on tactics and on the willpower of the person who wants to master that art. All that taken together warrants the conclusion that judo, as an oriental martial art, is not just a sport, but to some extent a philosophy.
Question: What are the most serious problems you face and how do you propose to go about solving them at this stage in Russia’s development?
Vladimir Putin: It is nothing surprising that Russia is in a state in which it is. In fact, a new state has been formed in terms of ideology, administration and territory. I want to stress that Russia is not a splinter of the former Soviet Union. It is a new country. And it is an emerging country.
The first task is to determine the political structure, to develop the democratic political structure of society, to form viable parties to ensure that all the instruments of democracy work. One such instrument, along with the multi-party system, is the judiciary. We should make sure that laws are scrupulously and effectively adhered to, and to create a common legal space in the country. One of the key tasks is to develop market relations and make them more effective. One of the main challenges for the Russian leadership is to bring the economy to such a state when Russia is effective in the context of mounting international competition. Consequently then it will be a reliable partner of our friends, including India.
Question: Mr Putin, we have come to your country investing in the media business. Ever since we came here nobody has hindered us and nobody has described us as heroes for investing our money in Russia. Still, people are asking whether it may happen that the process of the development of democracy, the market economy and freedom of speech will be reversed.
Vladimir Putin: I don’t think that is possible any longer. In the past 10 years a whole generation of young people has grown up. It is unlikely that they will want to live in a totalitarian system, but no matter how many of us lament the demise of the USSR, and many people in the post-soviet territories feel this deeply to this day, I doubt that anyone, even those who have lived in the former Soviet Union, would like to see the old order restored.
In my opinion, there is no social base on which those who want to turn the clock back could lean. The social base has been lost. In that sense there is no chance of a return to the totalitarian regime. I am sure that the market economy and democratic forms of government have taken root in Russia and are here to stay.
Question: What lessons have you drawn from the Kursk submarine disaster?
Vladimir Putin: It is a tragedy that shook the country and me personally. Unfortunately, it is not the first tragedy of this kind. We know that other countries too have lost submarines and surface vessels. The Americans have lost two submarines, which nobody intends to lift. For us it is the fourth such loss. It is a grave tragedy for the country. It is such a harrowing experience partly because for the first time in our history, and indeed in the history of many other seafaring nations which have experienced similar tragedies, we have shown everything openly to society, to the people.
It gives us something to ponder. It makes us consider the state of the Armed Forces and the relations between the Government and society. It makes us think again about the responsibility, our responsibility to the country. It will be a good occasion for making practical decisions. These decisions are in the process of being made.
Question: How would you describe your leadership style?
Vladimir Putin: In an emerging state one has to be mindful of the need to improve government structure. But that is not an end in itself. It is only a means to make sure that people live better, that the country is prosperous, to make sure that we can be proud to be citizens of the Russian Federation and that Russia is a reliable partner to our friends, including India.
Question: How would you describe the problems that confront you as a young leader of a state? What qualities should a leader possess to cope with all these problems?
Vladimir Putin: Decency and tolerance. And of course, professionalism.
Question: Mr Putin, I have a long-time relationship with Russia. Why is it that everyone I meet here has some memories of India: some kind of films, songs, names of actors? What associations does India conjure up for you?
Vladimir Putin: First, we should recall Nicholas Roerich, an artist who is well known in Russia and in India. A remarkable life, remarkable work, a remarkable example of spiritual kinship, which may not lie on the surface but nevertheless, spiritual kinship between our peoples.
Everyone in Russia, even the new generation, knows the film “The Vagabond” and the great Indian actor Raj Kapoor. We are interested in the religion of India and we closely follow its political life. We have great respect for the heroic past of the Indian people who, having chosen freedom, have not only achieved political and state independence, but are confidently leading their country to become a prosperous market economy under a democratic government. It has to be said that we in Russia have a very warm feeling towards India and towards the Indian people. So I expect a great deal from my coming visit to your country.