Indian soldiers board a plane for Russia to participate in the Indra 2017 exercise
Russia's relationship with India is second to none and can't be compared with Kremlin's relations with Pakistan, Russian Ambassador to India Nikolai Kudashev said today. "I do not see any opportunity to equalise relations between Russia and India and Russia and Pakistan. Our relations with India are a special strategic partnership, second to no other country," Mr Kudashev told reporters after the India-Russia first tri-service exercise.
The maiden tri-service exercise for India and Russia -- Indra-2017 -- concluded in Russia's Vladivostok last week after 11 days of joint training in counter-terror operations.
"We also have a sincere desire of normal relations with Pakistan. The purpose of the drill was of anti-terror nature, to support reasonable elements in the Pakistan government to counter terror," Mr Kudashev said.
On Russia-China relationship, and his reaction to China's continuing opposition to declaring and Jaish-e-Mohammed chief and Pathankot terror attack mastermind Masood Azhar a terrorist, Mr Kudashev said China is a "sovereign nation" and did not explain further. "We need to fight common threats of terror, drugs and crime to make life easier for all of us."
About his reaction to the India-US-Japan Malabar exercise, he said he was in favour of non-bloc open cooperation.
"My primary preoccupation is our bilateral relations. India is a sovereign nation and can take its own decisions. We would welcome larger non-bloc open regional architectures which will have space for all," Mr Kudashev said.
On the location of the exercise in the eastern part of Russia, an area which is close to China as well as the Korean peninsula, India's Chief of Integrated Defence Staff Lt. Gen. Satish Dua said the location for the exercise was picked by the host Russia, adding it was possibly because it was possible to carry out land, air and sea exercises there.
If there was any message intended through the exercise, Mr Kudashev said: "The message was friendly." Since the exercise happened in the context of the nuclear threat from North Korea, he said: "As far as the drills are concerned, I do not see any immediate connection."
He, however, added that Russia would welcome denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, and resumption of talks.
Indra 2017 focused on counter terrorism, and saw the participation of more than 900 Indian soldiers, sailors and air warriors along with over 1,000 personnel from the Russian Defence Forces. This is the first time both India and Russia held a tri-service exercise with any other country.
"Exercise Indra 2017 will surely be a benchmark for future exercises of this nature all across the world," Lt. Gen. Dua said.