One of Russia’s top political scientists Prof. Sergei A. Karaganov says Russia and India need to enhance exchanges in all areas of cooperation in order to make up for the loss that both have incurred in the last 20 years by not exploring the full potential of bilateral relations.
Professor Sergei Karaganov was in the Indian capital recently on the invitation by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) as part of the chamber's 90-year celebration. Karaganov spoke to Sputnik on the state of Indo-Russian relations and possible ways ahead.
Sputnik: India and Russia have a legacy of mutual relations especially in the cultural and scientific fields. Of late, has it come down a bit?
Sergei Karaganov: For sure we have lost an opportunity of around 20 years. Soon after the economic situation in Russia collapsed we had a gap and after that, we were first focused with Europe and then with China and, in the meantime India was not anywhere on the radar. Maybe the web of relationship weakened with time. Today we consider it as one of the major mistakes of Russian foreign policy and I don't know if it is seen as the same way here also.
Sputnik: What's the way ahead for India and Russia to make up for the loss?
Sergei Karaganov: First and foremost, we need to restore connectivity and it could be by all means including rail, etc. The relationship between the intellectual and elites of our societies need to be restored by some steps like starting joint courses. There needs to be more and more centers of Indian and Russian studies on both sides. I think today we have an excellent relationship at the top level but it is not the same at other levels. We need to talk more because we have so much to tell each other.
Sputnik: Are there cultural avenues and common meeting points which can be explored like it was in the past?
Sergei Karaganov: Cultural relations are not as bad as we think. Just to tell you, Indian films are a staple for a Russian family even today and the Bollywood channel is one of the most popular and watched channels in Russia. So, there is hope you see.
Sputnik: Observers say business to business relationships between India and Russia have lagged way behind what it was supposed to be. Do you see the possibility of a comeback? What are the opportunities ahea
Sergei Karaganov: We have lost many opportunities which need to restored and business is one of the most important. Indian goods are everywhere across the world but for Russians, we have to buy from the US or the European market. That is a shame.
Russia has huge opportunities in energy collaboration with India and that must be explored. Another opportunity to work together is in the Middle East. In the next three years' time if something is left out of the countries in Iraq and Syria then all the three countries India, China and Russia have to come together in the reconstruction. And India can play a major role with labor and capital.
Sputnik: In the last few years, do you see India pursuing an aggressive diplomacy and how important is this Indian position in the global scenario?
Sergei Karaganov: I would prefer India to be more assertive…it is not aggressive. You are right, India is increasingly playing an important role but it should be more so. It is also important where to direct this assertiveness.The more assertive India is, the more it is good for humanity. India is a peaceful power and Gandhi is a shining example to us all. We need India and everybody needs India. India's history of the non-aligned movement is one of the greatest achievements ever.