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Russia, India observe WWII anniversary

Russia, India observe WWII anniversary
The Russian Embassy recently held a series of events in New Delhi to mark Russia’s victory in The Great Patriotic War, which was fought from 1941 to 1945. This war propelled the Allied forces to victory in World War II.

The first event which was held on April 24 was the inauguration of a five-day long film festival, jointly organised by the Russian Centre of Science and Culture (RCSC) along with the Citizens’ Film Forum. Each of the five films including the inaugural film directed by Alexander Kott- “The Brest Fortress”, were excellent productions that poignantly portrayed the resilient ethos and plight of the Russian people in those years of tremendous suffering.

A pleasant surprise was Russia’s desire to include the Indian military for its celebrations in New Delhi and Moscow. While many Indian Army veterans were invited to the events in the national capital, the spectacular Victory Day Parade at Moscow’s Red Square included an impressive contingent of the Indian Army’s Grenadiers Regiment. The chief guest and guest of honour for the inaugural event were retired Major Gen GD Bakshi and this writer.

In his welcome address, Fedor Rozovskiy, Director of the Russian Centre of Science and Culture, recalled the massive devastation caused to Russia by Hitler’s offensive and the irrevocable loss of the lives of 27 million Russian people.

General Bakshi dwelt at length on the immense human toll and massive destruction that the erstwhile Soviet Union underwent in comparison to its alliance partners, and appreciated the important role the country played in saving humanity from the rampaging fascist menace.

Sergey Karmalito, Senior Counsellor of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in India, thanked the organisers of the function in commemorating a historical landmark event, which probably changed the destiny of mankind.

This writer lauded the glory of the Red Army and the Russian people achieved through the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. What was also noteworthy was that the ‘Soviet Union’ took the initiative amongst the allied forces in defeating the Germans, particularly their armour of Panzers with Russian T-34 tanks. He also expressed the need of consistent research in bringing out relevant truths and exposing the inaccurate myths revolving around global wars.

Vimal Mehta, Honorary Secretary, of Citizens’ Film Forum, underlined the need for more such film festivals to educate the youth on the consequences of wars and the imperative of containing them for development and progress. Aakshat Sinha, Joint Secretary of Citizens’ Film Forum, moderated the programme.

On April 27 there was a function at the RCSC to inaugurate a photo exhibition of the Great Patriotic War, again attended by many Indian military veterans. On May 9, the Russian Embassy together with the Embassies of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, organised the Great Victory Day celebration at the RCSC. 

Speaking on that occasion, Russian Ambassador Alexander Kadakin welcomed Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Moscow to attend the Victory Day celebration, saying, “Russia highly values and welcomes President PK Mukherjee’s participation in the celebrations of our victory in the Great Patriotic War against Nazism (1941-1945). It is a telling gesture towards my country of such a long-time and tested friend, as Mr Mukherjee, as also a symbol of solidarity of the people of India in grateful remembrance of the 27 million lives my country laid on the altar of the Allied Victory.  Russia also cherishes India’s active role in the last World War and the sympathy of the most illustrious founding fathers and all sons and daughters of this great land showed for the heroic efforts of the former Soviet Union. Both Russia and India stood at the cradle of the United Nations Organization. Amity and affection are the only words to describe our friendship for almost seven decades.”

After honouring the memory of those who sacrificed their lives in the war, a video of the Victory Day Parade in Moscow was shown. Marching with Russian troops down the Red Square, was a contingent of the Indian army’s Grenadiers Regiment, in ceremonial dress with their distinctive white hackles. An Exhibition of Historical Photos of World War II, Links of Time and “Great Patriotic War in Paintings, Graphics and in Human Destiny” were on display at the RCSC, along with photos from Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.

For 70 percent of arms and ammunition of the India’s Armed Forces, which were supplied by erstwhile USSR from the late 1960s onwards, its break-up in December 1991 had resulted in major problems of spares for the various systems. In their bid to rediscover their strategic value to each other and renewing the relationship with a major change from buyer-seller to partners in a joint venture, India and Russia signed an agreement in February 1998 to design, develop, manufacture and market BrahMos missiles. Coined as a combination of Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers, this is a versatile supersonic cruise missile system, which is launchable from submarines, ships, aircraft or land. At speeds of Mach 2.5 to 2.8, it is the world’s fastest cruise missile, about three and a half times faster than the American subsonic Harpoon cruise missile.

On January 20 2004, India’s then Defence Minister George Fernandes and then visiting Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov signed the biggest-ever defence deal for the purchase of the aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, along with deck-based MiG-29K fighter aircraft and other systems, including torpedo tubes, missile systems and artillery guns, all valued then at $1.5 billion (over Rs. 7,000 crores). The agreement was yet another milestone in Indo-Russian defence cooperation. Speaking at the widely attended joint press conference held in the rear lawns of South Block, both defence ministers said talks were on to take the buyer-seller relationship to a higher plane that will include joint research and development of military hardware.

However, not much later in 2004, an ill-timed sting by a weekly magazine had shattered the deals the NDA government had made with Russia. The UPA’s tenure, subsequently, marked a steep nose-dive in decades old Indo-Russian ties. In April 2013, Russia’s displeasure at India awarding multi-billion dollar military contracts to other countries was expressed through Ambassador Kadakin, who reportedly said: “We know what gimmicks are used to manipulate deals…Sometimes, terms of tenders are crafted specifically to get the required results.” He also added that his country may not bid for Indian military tenders in the future. Reminding that Russia had stood by India when strictest sanctions were imposed on it after it conducted nuclear tests, he also acknowledged that India, as “an emerging superpower”, had the right to build defence ties with other countries. He also pointed out that unlike “some newly-acquired partners”, Russia had never hesitated to transfer the most sensitive defence technologies to India. Referring to the Akula-II nuclear-powered attack submarine leased to India by Russia in 2012, Kadakin had asked “Name a country that will lease you a nuclear submarine. Will the Americans, the British or the French lease you such a platform? This is the unique character of our privileged strategic partnership. Your people have to realise this.”

On June 14 2014, Prime Minister Modi spent a day on board INS Vikramaditya (formerly Admiral Gorshkov), the largest aircraft carrier inducted into the Indian Navy. Watch this space after his visit to Russia, in July this year.
Anil Bhat

Anil Bhat

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