New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government didn’t invite Russian ambassador to India Nikolay Rishatovich Kudashev to be a part of the 15-member foreign envoy delegation to visit Jammu and Kashmir and assess the security situation in the region earlier this week.
Speaking to ThePrint, Kudashev said, “I have never seen an official invitation to be part of this team. This was not a private journey… My colleagues (other envoys) got the invitation. It was their sovereign decision to travel. If I have one (an invitation), I would consider it.”
Kudashev, however, added that Russia considers the issue of the scrapping of Article 370 and the present situation in J&K as a matter “strictly internal” to India.
“Quite frankly, we believe that the situation there is strictly an internal matter of India. Russian diplomacy is not in the habit of commenting on internal developments of our friendly partners. If anyone (who) has any questions on Kashmir can travel there… we do not have any questions,” he added.
Kudashev’s statement came after the Ministry of External Affairs took foreign envoys on a two-day tour of Jammu and Srinagar to “see first-hand efforts to normalise the situation there” in the aftermath of the government’s August 5 move.
US ambassador to India Kenneth Juster was part of the delegation. Envoys from Vietnam, South Korea, Maldives, Togo and Niger also attended. However, EU leaders chose to skip the trip.
Kudashev also spoke about the S-400 defence deal and bilateral and investment ties.
S-400 deal on track
With Russia continuing to be India’s topmost arms supplier, and contracts worth over $12 billion currently in the pipeline, all eyes are on the $5.43 billion deal for the sale of S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems — particularly in view of the US threat of sanctions on India.
“We truly appreciate India’s position as far as the S-400 deal is concerned. India’s commitment is there to implement it and to continue it. As far as we are concerned, there are no issues with us,” Kudashev told ThePrint.
“Our military industries, our contractors will strictly follow the terms of the deal rest assured.”
The Russian ambassador also said the delivery of the first batch of missiles will come by the end of this year or early 2021. He added that even the payment for the deal is taking place without any glitches.
“There are no issues on the payments. No complaint as far as I can understand. The contract is being implemented safely,” said Kudashev.
On Thursday, the US State Department hinted at imposing sanctions on India, saying there is “no blanket waiver” under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) legislation should New Delhi go forward with the deal.
India has, however, maintained since CAATSA came into force in 2017 that it has managed to convince the Donald Trump administration of its requirements for the country’s military.
‘India-Russia should establish a new BIT’
To strengthen the business and investment ties between the two countries, Kudashev said Moscow and New Delhi should first and foremost initiate and conclude a new bilateral investment protection treaty (BIT).
“We must do a new investment bilateral protection treaty. We must upgrade our double taxation agreement. We must eliminate barriers in bilateral trade. We should introduce national currencies. We must protect our bilateral ties from unilateral sanctions,” he said.
He highlighted that both the Indian and Russian governments should look for other “alternative and safe vehicles of making payment”.
The old India-Russia BIT has become a sore point in bilateral ties after the 2G telecom licenses of a Russian conglomerate-backed Sistema Shyam Teleservices Ltd were cancelled in 2012. SSTL ran the MTS brand of mobile services.
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