Hailing Russia as India's largest investment destination in the oil and gas sector, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Thursday said that Moscow will always be a priority in New Delhi's foreign and energy policy.
Speaking at a conference titled 'India-Russia in the 21st Century: Enhancing the Special Privileged Strategic Partnership' here, Pradhan said: "I believe that our time-tested relationship has no expiry date. Russia will always be a priority in India's foreign and energy policy and both our countries will remain as a role model for global communities."
He told ANI on the sidelines of the conference that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin share a "deep friendship" and that the two countries have built an 'energy bridge' between themselves.
"Prime Minister Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin share a deep friendship and respect for each other which is beyond the business and diplomatic relations. Today Russia is the closest friend," he noted.
Pradhan also opined that the signing of the declaration on the India-Russia Strategic partnership between former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Putin was a "watershed moment in our relations".
"Vajpayee ji's efforts infused warmth and transformed our co-operation into Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership. Last year, we celebrated 70 years of diplomatic ties between India and Russia. The seventy plus years of our bilateral relations have been further strengthened by Prime Minister Modi and President Putin in the last couple of years by adopting the historic St Petersburg declaration," he said.
"Our energy relations were never as strong as they have become in the last couple of years. Our engagement in the hydrocarbon sector, including some major investments, has become one of the key pillars of our bilateral relations. India and Russia have deeply strengthened their hydrocarbon engagement and we have also built an 'Energy Bridge' between our two countries. Soviet technology helped us in oil and gas since the 1960s. Striking oil at Bombay High, India's biggest oil and gas field, was also due to Soviet experts," the minister added.
Pradhan stated that Prime Minister Modi and President Putin have placed "special emphasis on the energy sector as a priority area in our bilateral cooperation".
"Russia is one of the largest producers of oil and natural gas in the world and it can become an important source to fulfil India's requirements. India has embarked on the path of becoming a gas-based economy. Russian supplies will help us in meeting the objectives of price stability and energy security. Our oil and gas PSUs are continuing to explore their participation in more oil and gas projects in Russia," he underscored.
The minister said that PM Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin share a 'deep friendship' and that the two countries have built an 'energy bridge' between themselves.