NEW DELHI: “Russia would like to avoid the lack of trust, stability between our separate, independent partners India and China,” says Roman Babushkin, the country’s Deputy Chief of Mission. “We’re happy they decided to use our platform (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Defence, Foreign Ministers meet in Moscow) to discuss their current issues and this is encouraging,” he told StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi in this exclusive interview. “The disagreements can be misused by outside players for geopolitical purposes and would not serve the stability of the region,” Babushkin added. The supply of S-400 air defence platforms, the Russian diplomat said, “is being successfully implemented according to schedule and the first batch is expected in India by the end of 2021,” while pointing out, “we will be ready to expedite the Indian request, as well.” The S-400s are “defensive systems”, Russia’s second most senior diplomat in India pointed out, adding they’re “not supposed to be used against each other. They’re to ensure the security of both countries.” Asked whether China is trying to veto or object to defence sales to India in the current climate, Babushkin smiled while saying, “Well, I haven’t heard anything on that front”.
The “advanced level of the India-Russian partnership in defence is unique,” with India “step by step becoming an arms exporter,” the diplomat said. Adding, the export of the Brahmos supersonic missile with “expanded capacity” to third countries like Vietnam and the Philippines in ASEAN and other South American countries is a “follow up to that exercise” and a “welcome development” with “final bureaucratic” issues being sorted out. Babushkin also talked about additional fighter jets for India, the Make in India Kalashnikov rifle factory and 100 per cent localisation in production.
“We are still considering the idea of a India-Russia-Japan dialogue,” Babushkin said on an invite to Moscow to join an Indo-Pacific initiative but “there’s still some way to go since it should be all-inclusive and not exclusivist.” Delineating Moscow’s foreign policy, he said “we don’t understand some western powers using the rules based order to justify unilateral approaches and sanctions.” After the U.S, France, Singapore, Australia and Japan, a military logistics and access agreement between India and Russia “is almost ready” and “we’re hopeful” it will be signed at the summit between President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expected in the next few months, the diplomat said.
The Russian Deputy Chief of Mission also spoke about President Putin’s Eurasia initiative, cooperation at the UN Security Council and the Arctic, medical trials and production in India of the ‘Sputnik V’ Covid-19 vaccine, training of India’s Gaganyaan cosmonauts and the implementation of agreements signed at the summit in Vladivostok in 2019 on Russia’s Far East.