15 Nov 2007, 0448 hrs IST ,
A dinner at Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin and our Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee remains an unforgettable experience. Our table was fourth to the left of the table where Putin and Vajpayee -- the two giant leaders sat. The whole atmosphere was celebrative and exuded warmth in that fabulous palace with stunning artwork in pure gold that's indescribable, with Russian orchestra playing lilting tunes from Raj Kapoor films like Awara - a great hit in Russia. While we chatted, Russians were clearly showing their appreciation for India under a firm coalition emerging fast on the global scene as a powerful nation. On my table were some scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) and perhaps impressed with my praise for Putin one of them said, if you have so much of love for him, go get his signatures on this evening' s menu. In a sudden impulse, I straightaway reached Putin in a second and got his autographs -- still a prized possession. I remember Vajpayee smilingly saying - 'he edits the paper I edited once'. Putin signed and returned the smile politely. His liveliness and a desire to remain India's closest ally impressed us all -- nationalists and internationalists both. Sadly, this time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Moscow was too short and couldn't register the traditional warmth and vivacious factor that has always marked our ties. This time Kremlin was used for a press briefing and dinner was skipped. Though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose government survives on the support given by the forlorn Indian children of the Bolshevik Revolution, visited Moscow at a time when the residual Communists are celebrating its 90th anniversary, he neither offered a wreath at the tomb of Lenin nor paid tributes to the Revolution. This is how a revolution which 'inspired' Stalin and Mao to annihilate millions of their citizens and throttle the voices of a different colour inhumanly, has gone invisible in less than seventy-five years of its birth, leaving behind a legacy of tortures, Gulags and Siberias. On the ruins of Soviet Russia's falsified and inflated claims of economy and a painful dismemberment of its constituents, Vladimir Putin has emerged as the hero of the Russian people, walking in the shadow of legendary ruler, Peter the great. He is young - just 55 - has definitive ideas for making Russia regain its strength and an independent say in global affairs, rejuvenated the economy and ruthlessly eliminated the terror groups, mostly of the Islamic jihadi variety. He had inherited from his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, the first democratically-elected President of the Russian Federation post-Communist era, a tottering economy, when bagful of roubles (check the spelling please) fetched dollars less than what fingers could count and a virtual parallel rule of the ex-KGB mafia goons from airport to downtown areas. Putin restored Russian confidence by single-mindedly campaigning against terrorism and his catch words were -'eliminate terrorism without talking to rebels'. Chechnya provided a testing time for his will and prowess and he emerged victorious with flying colours. The 1999 military campaign in Chechnya to defeat decisively the incursion of Chechen rebels into Dagestan in August 1999 demonstrated Putin's steel willpower. "The absence of law and order in the republic led to terrorism, kidnapping and all kinds of illegal activities, which crept into southern Russia and constituted a threat to the surrounding area...What in August 1999 was presented as an operation to deter Chechen aggression against Dagestan, had in October become an effort to seal rebellious Chechnya off along the river Terek; in November to "eliminate the terrorists," and finally in January 2000, a military operation in defence of Russian territorial integrity'. Putin refused to hold negotiations with Chechen rebel leaders, saying that "negotiations are out of the question because they are senseless''. Today Russia claims hard currency reserves of $303 billion (234 billion euros), the third largest in the world and the government's Stabilization Fund -- used to soak up extra oil revenues and keep a tight leash on inflation -- is close to $100 billion (77 billion euros). Oil production is expected to reach 540 million metric tonnes per year by 2015, up from 482 million at present. During the Communist regime, hundreds of Churches were demolished and the places of Russian civilisational pride were turned into garbage centres. Putin began a massive reconstruction movement involving people and corporates to rebuild those structures, which included famous Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, demolished during the Soviet period.
A black belt in karate, whose bare-chested photos created a stir in Russia recently, Putin will relinquish office in March 2008 paving the way for his successor, but people still love to see him run the national affairs. And while he has become the lone brave voice against US hegemony, Washington accuses him of nursing dictatorial policies and a complete centralisation of power in his hands. Russians, ask in return, is that Bush administration speaking who has unleashed a global military campaign to 'democratise Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and has Iran next on its list? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met this man and reaffirmed the 'time-tested friendship' between the two nations. The visit, though merely spanning 28 hours, is significant in view of the drama being played regarding the India-US nuke deal by the remnants of Bolshevism, Indian Leftists.
India purchases 70 per cent of its military hardware from Russia and though the US has never helped India in times of crises, remember its Seventh Fleet during the 1971 war of Bangladesh liberation, friendship with Russia, in the words of Manmohan Singh, "has passed the test of time." But, of late, Russians feel that South Block still looks at Russia through a Leftist-Cold War era prism and has tilted its preferences in favour of the US which is trying to use India for its regional strategic goals. Hence, a renewed emphasis on creating an India-Russia-China block. Last year in July, on the sidelines of G8 meeting in St. Petersburg (which was renamed as Leningrad in Soviet Russian era), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Putin and Chinese supreme leader Hu Jintao, talking about strengthening relations between the three giants. Predictably, it created a lot of heat in the West. Putin has been openly critical of a uni-polar world and trying to work with India to strengthen the troika to move towards a multi-polar regime that suits us too. In this background, the deals with Russia look impressive. India gets 80 Mi-17 helicopters, an agreement towards the joint development of the Ilyushin 214 military transport planes and Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) show the renewed levels of trust. Putin had plans to build four more Russian nuclear reactors in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Under an existing deal, he had agreed to install two reactors in Tamil Nadu with a capacity to produce 1,000 megawatts of atomic energy a day, but strangely enough, the agreement in this sector couldn't be signed during Manmohan Singh's visit and the reason cited was that the nuclear trade with India is still banned till it moves ahead finally with the Indo-US nuke deal. Yet an important agreement for cooperation in space puts the relations again in an extraordinary category. Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) and the Indian Department of Space have agreed for a joint lunar research and exploration agreement, which was signed by Roskosmos chief Anatoly Perminov and Madhavan Nair, the secretary of India's Department of Space and chairman of the Space Commission. Russia would launch an unmanned mission to the Moon, Luna-Glob, in 2010. The second mission, which will include putting a new-generation 400-kg Lunokhod unmanned rover on the Moon, will start in 2011. "The first mission will be solely Russian, but the second will be carried out in conjunction with India," Russian reports said. India will provide a rocket and a flight module for the mission, which will be launched from an Indian space centre.
Well, so far so good. But the question remains - why can't we too do to the traitors and annihilators of people's just movements what Putin did in Russia?
We are shamelessly silent on the Nandigram massacre, listening to the justification of mass killings by CPM hoodlums by a state Chief Minister, talking endlessly to the rebels eating away the vitals of the nation and remain indecisive about vigorously persuing national goals. No nation on earth is so complacent on security issues and eliminating terror as we are. The kith and kin of martyrs who laid their lives defending Parliament returned their gallantry awards and it didn't shake the conscience of any political master. On the contrary, the culprit, who had his death sentence confirmed by the highest court of the land, was defended openly to please a 'majority' in the Valley.
There are daily news reports regarding killings of innocent citizens by Stalinist Maoists and jihadis , the nation's civilisational moors become a matter of jokes and denigration by rulers and an ambition to lead the world remains elusive at the political level.
Putin providing military hardware is fine, but our leaders should also take a few grams of courage and a ruthless decisiveness for restoring peace and national pride from him.