06 December 2005

Manmohan Singh urges Russians to discover a "new generation of Raj Kapoors''

Dateline Moscow: Is a "young" India the answer to "ageing" Russia's demographic nightmare? Can the two work together to better harness Russia's scientific and techological skills? Manmohan Singh seems to think so.

6 December 2005
The Hindu

Manmohan Singh urges Russians to discover a ``new generation of Raj Kapoors''

Siddharth Varadarajan

Moscow: One day ahead of his summit-level talks with President Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister spoke of the need for a "strategic partnership in the knowledge-based sectors" between India and Russia. In a speech before the academic council of Moscow State University — which awarded him with an honorary professorship on Monday — Dr. Singh said the 21st century would be "predicated on knowledge" in which the development of human resource held the key. In an oblique reference to Russia's abysmal post-socialist demographic profile — with its falling birth and increasing death rates — he said, "Thus, demographic characteristics, the ratio of the young population to the ageing and the reproductive index will acquire a greater strategic significance."

This is where India could come in handy. Russia's greatest asset, he said, was its rich tradition of human creativity and scientific and technological ingenuity. India, on the other hand, was developing these capabilities "and will have the largest pool of young people in the foreseeable future." If the greying of Russia was an area of "vulnerability in the long cycle of the next century," India's youthfulness was an advantage that Moscow could leverage, he argued. Hence the logic of a "knowledge-based" strategic partnership.

As if to underscore the point of youth, the Prime Minister told his university audience that he hoped young Russians "will once again look at India and discover the new face of India."

"I know many of your senior faculty may still hum the tunes of Awara and may still be nostalgic about Raj Kapoor!" he said. "But I want you, students, to come and discover a new generation of Raj Kapoors and the new music that your generation in India taps its feet to... There is a need for a new generation of Indians and Russians to rediscover each other."

Energy cooperation

Later in the day, Russian Energy and Industry Minister Viktor Khristenko called on the Prime Minister Manmohan and held wide-ranging discussions on energy cooperation between the two countries. "They agreed that India and Russia must develop a long-term energy partnership," the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said. Mr. Khristenko invited India both to invest in Russia's energy sector and also to join Russian companies in exploration and extraction activities in third countries, particularly in Central Asia.

In the context of the interest expressed by ONGC and other Indian companies in picking up a stake in Russian energy companies like Transneft, Dr. Singh and Mr. Khristenko agreed to promote cooperation between their respective oil companies through "joint ventures and equity participation," the spokesperson said.

Oil project

The Russian minister specifically welcomed India's interest in participating in the Sakhalin-3 oil project in Siberia. India has already invested $2.7 billion in Sakhalin-1 but is expected to have to bargain hard for a share in the even more lucrative Sakhalin-3 venture where Russian and international energy majors such as Lukoil, Gazprom, Rosneft and ExxonMobil are all jockeying for position.

On the nuclear front, the Prime Minister and Mr. Khristenko reviewed the progress being made in the Kudankulam project. "[The PM] conveyed India's willingness to consider positively the construction of additional reactors in view of its growing energy needs," the spokesman said.

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