Ladies and gentlemen,
We held meaningful and practical talks with Minister of External Affairs of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in a traditional friendly and sincere atmosphere. Our countries are united by historical ties that represent mutual respect, self-sufficiency and immunity to the fluctuations of the geopolitical environment.
We agreed that the strengthening of the Russia-India privileged and strategic partnership meets the vital interests of our nations and helps maintain international and regional security and stability. We were pleased to note the rhythmic, regular and intensive character of our political dialogue at both the top and Foreign Ministry levels.
We were happy to note the positive dynamics in trade. By September 2022, trade was 133 percent of the same period in 2021, at almost $17 billion. We are confident that we will soon bring it to $30 billion, reaching a goal set by the Russian and Indian leaders.
We agreed that the Intergovernmental Russian-Indian Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation plays a key role in our trade, economic, investment, logistics, transport and high-tech cooperation. Today, Mr Jaishankar held a meeting with his counterpart – Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov (both are co-chairs on the commission). Mr Jaishankar described the dialogue as useful and substantive.
We discussed in detail the status of and prospects for the ongoing talks on launching the North-South international transport corridor and other aspects related to logistics in our common region.
We noted good prospects of energy cooperation, including an increase in Russian hydrocarbon exports to the Indian market and mutual participation in the plans for extraction, in part in the Far East and on the Arctic shelf of the Russian Federation. We talked about effective cooperation in civil nuclear industry, in part, the successful construction of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. We discussed further steps in this area, in part, a site for building another Russian-designed nuclear power plant that can provide India with clean and safe energy in the future.
We discussed in detail the status and prospects for military-technical cooperation and joint production of modern weapons. We attach much importance to space exploration in such areas as satellite navigation, space science and manned programmes.
We emphasised the importance of intensive talks on signing a free trade agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union and India.
We praised our interaction in the world arena, including at the UN, BRICS, the SCO and the G20, as well as other multilateral platforms.
We paid much attention to the developments in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa.
For our part, we confirmed our high assessment of the position of our Indian friends on the situation in Ukraine and around it. We informed Mr Jaishankar about the course of the special military operation, aimed at reaching the goals set by President of Russian Vladimir Putin in his speech on February 24 of this year.
We discussed the situation that had taken shape due to the attempts of our Western colleagues to strengthen their dominant role in world affairs and prevent democratisation of international relations under the pretext of the developments in Ukraine.
I believe the talks were productive and confirmed our mutual striving to promote interaction in all areas. We will continue our contacts, in part, at the upcoming ASEAN and G20 multilateral events.
Question: The situation in Afghanistan continues to be a source of concern for both India and Russia. What do you think about future cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi on the Afghan issue in the context of today's discussion?
A regular session of the Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan is scheduled for mid-November. Apparently, the new Afghan authorities have not been invited to this meeting even though the Taliban took part in the Moscow format session in 2021. Please, comment on this decision. Why was it made?
Sergey Lavrov: As we noted in our opening remarks, we had discussed in detail the situation in Afghanistan and the tasks facing the international community in its efforts to help the Afghan people stabilise the situation and achieve national accord on the future of their country.
We are working with the Taliban in our ministry. Our Indian friends are also taking the necessary steps in this area. We have not yet achieved the desired result. We do not believe our colleagues that are in power in Kabul are moving fast enough in fulfilling their announced commitments to their people. I am referring to the need to consolidate the ethno-political unity of the Afghan people and ensure the inclusive character of power in the country. We continue working in this vein. Thus, a regular Moscow format session will take place as early as next week. Our Indian partners will be represented, as will the other participants in these sessions.
We maintain regular contact with the Taliban representatives that will be told about the agenda of the Moscow format meeting. We have no secrets from them. We will conduct a detailed briefing for both the Taliban and the other political forces in Afghanistan.
Question: Can you please describe what you see as the development priorities for the SCO today? Are they security issues or the need to promote economic cooperation?
Could you tell us about the progress on BRICS expansion so far? Have concrete dates been set for admitting new members to BRICS, in particular, Algeria, Iran and Argentina? What industries or sectors might contribute to facilitating the admission of these countries? Can you list any countries that might, in the near future, also expect to be admitted to BRICS?
Sergey Lavrov: Being a diverse association, the SCO addresses, among other issues, security matters, which this organisation was initially created for, that is, to ensure order along the borders of the Central Asian countries, the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation. This objective has long since been successfully achieved.
As the SCO evolved, not only has it paid increasingly more attention to the issues of heading off and neutralising new challenges and threats, such as terrorism, extremism and separatism, but it has also capitalised on its comparative advantages. The SCO member countries, which occupy the larger part of Eurasia, are keen to use these advantages to develop their economic ties, boost trade and create additional transport infrastructure that will help minimise costs, increase profits and provide benefits to each of our countries.
If, in addition to land routes, we consider the possibilities of using the Northern Sea Route, it will make prospects look impressive. We are working with our Indian friends on this, that is, using the Northern Sea Route and hydrocarbon deposits that are located on Russia's shelf.
I would like to note that, in addition to cooperation in ensuring security and stability, and promoting economic and investment ties, and infrastructure projects in our common region, cooperation in education and culture within the SCO is also being developed, including among political science centres and culture ministries. Exchange programmes, exhibitions and concert tours are obviously in demand.
As an institution, BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – is equally useful, and we need it just as much. Interest in this global association is high and continues to grow. You mentioned several countries, including Algeria, Argentina and Iran, which are showing an interest in this format. In reality, there are over a dozen countries like this. Last June, a regular BRICS summit took place in a video conference format, with China holding the BRICS Presidency. In addition to the event per se, during which the leaders of the five countries discussed this association's internal affairs and approved a declaration where they outlined their plans for the future, a summit in a BRICS+ format was held. In addition to the five BRICS countries, it was attended by the leaders of 13 countries. These countries are well known, and they include nations representing all, without exception, developing regions in the world: Asia, Africa and Latin America. We welcome their interest.
Before we give specific details as to how and when BRICS might expand, we, the five BRICS countries, have agreed to coordinate the criteria and principles that we should be guided by when considering applications. We have already received some official applications for membership. Given this, we expect the work on coordinating the criteria and principles that should underlie BRICS expansion to not take much time, but first, we need to understand how this association will continue to develop in a potentially expanded format.