MANI Dalt39MELLO INTERVIEWS CONSUL GENERAL OF RUSSIA IN MUMBAI, A. A. NOVIKOV.

Mr. Novikov, this is your first year as the Consul General of Russia in Mumbai. What are your impressions about being here and working as the Consul Ge

neral of your country? As a student of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations I have opted for Hindi as my first language, and since that time I simply adore India and its people. I joyfully recollect my first appointment as an attaché in Nepal after which I worked far away from South Asia for a while. So, first of all, I am very happy to be ” back to basics” meaning back to South Asia and to India. I am also glad to return to India with an appointment in Mumbai as it is a vibrant and promising business and financial center.

My first year as the Consul General in Mumbai saw several milestone events. The most high- profile and determinant of them was the visit of Dmitri Medvedev, the President of Russia, to India and to Mumbai.

In November 2010 we widely celebrated the 110th anniversary of the Consulate General of Russia in Mumbaithe first Russian diplomatic mission in India.

The 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagrins space flight was celebrated this year. India and Russia enjoy numerous space programs, what is your take on that? 2011 is marked by the 50th anniversary of sending the first man into space – a Soviet, a Russian man – Yuri Gagarin.

This is a great celebration for all mankind! As for the joint space activities between Russia and India today, one cannot but admit that space is the key sector of cooperation between the two countries. Nearly three decades after Sharmas historic flight in 1984, the Indian Space Research Organization is scheduling a human space flight in 2017 and a lunar mission known as Chandrayaan – II project. In November 2007 an agreement on joint lunar exploration was signed between India and Russia to cooperate in both Orbiter and Lander. The 2008 Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Activities in the field of Human Spaceflight program between India and Russia provides for an Indian astronaut first going on a space mission on a Russian spacecraft.

Roskosmos will also assist ISRO in building a spacecraft for the Indian manned mission by 2015 and redesigning the Soyuz space capsule. If the mission is successful, India will become the forth nation in the world after Russia, the USA and China to send a manned mission into outer space.

Where is Indo- Russia relations heading? Currently Russia and India enjoy a ” privileged strategic partnership”. Russia has the same kind of partnership only with a few CIS countries. Our ties are already very close.

That is proved by the official visits that the heads of Russia and India annually pay to each others country. We will continue to develop and augment our relations with India extending cooperation to new fields that promise big opportunities to both countries.

First and foremost, I mean bilateral trade. Today the trade turnover between Russia and India amounts to mere 8 billion US dollars. Russian and Indian leaders have set a target of increasing the turnover to 20 billion US dollars by 2015.

Recently we have been facing some problems in our military cooperation, which I will be touching upon later.

Has India moving closer to US, affected Indo- Russia old ties ( cold war era)? The times when countries used to align with one of the two Super powers are long over. Notably, India was never involved in that in the past and even headed the Nonaligned movement. We believe that closer ties between India and the USA have no negative effect on our relations with India. India is a sovereign country that can pursue whatever foreign policy it deems necessary. Moreover, I think that Russia and the USA have common interests in South Asia. A graphic example in this respect is the TAPI ( Turkmenistan- Afghanistan- Pakistan and India) pipe- line unanimously endorsed by Russia and the USA. Still one can not neglect the fact that forgoing its own i

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