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'India better off forging military relationship with Russia, China'
New Delhi, Sep 1 (PTI) India cannot afford to ignore a country as strong as the USA but it would be better off forging military relationship with Russia and China, says former army chief Gen S Padmanabhan.

"Russia, China and India could forge an alliance with security clauses to give us, collectively, a degree of immunity from the actions of the hegemon," says Gen Padmanabhan in his forthcoming book "A General Speaks".

"Perhaps that is what Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had in mind when he told a group of journalists in New Delhi during his India visit that trilateral cooperation between India, China and Russia will help democratise international relations and safeguard world peace, security and stability.

"The agreement will also make Asia an excellent example of what nations can achieve, if they set their minds to it," he says.

On India's foreign policy, the former army chief says "India's primary interest is to ensure for herself freedom to decide, act and progress without curtailing a similar right of any other nation to do so. We are nobody's vassals..." He says that "we cannot afford to ignore a country as strong as USA" but it should be our endeavour to engage with it "on terms of strict parity" in all matters in which we choose to engage with them such as commerce and trade, science and technology, tourism and travel, medicine, health and adventure sports.

"We should concern ourselves solely with our nation's security interests and making the USA a major defence supplier to us, is certainly not in our interest," he cautions.

Also, Padmanabhan says, India should not get overly pleased with the USA calling us their 'ally' and speaking of' Next Step in Strategic Progress' and military to military cooperation including low level, rather purposeless exercises and selling to us, a few military equipments we wanted. "All that is the sop that is being given to us to buy our silence while they carry out their invasion of Iran," he warns.

On the other hand, he says, "our relationship with the Russian federation are already well established. Strategic cooperation, defence cooperation including joint manufacture of supersonic cruise missiles, economic linkages in the form of investments, trade and joint ventures and a fair level of people to people contacts, all indicate that Russo-Indian friendship is bound to grow.

The fact that China and Russia have mended their once strained relations and forged strong economic and political linkages over the past five years or so, augurs well for a triangular security arrangement involving Russia, China and India, the former army chief says.

There were many eyebrows raised when we mooted such an idea in 2003, he says and argues that China is not hegemonic, nor will it risk economic prosperity for counter-productive assertiveness.

The only cause of friction between India and China is the border dispute but then the apparatus to solve it was put in position years ago.

"We have made some progress in the dialogue with China. I may take many more rounds of talks to achieve results..." On relations with other countries, Gen Padmanabhan talks of India's many friends like France, Germany, Italy, Eastern Europe but says "we should be more wary of the UK as long as the present new labour regime is in office.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
FILED IN: Defence
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