An honour to join Victory Day celebrations in Russia: President Pranab

As he leaves for Russia on a five-day state visit, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday that it will be an honour to be part of the 70th anniversary commemoration of World War II in Moscow.

New Delhi: As he leaves for Russia on a five-day state visit, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday that it will be an honour to be part of the 70th anniversary commemoration of World War II in Moscow.

In an interview to ITAR TASS news agency, the president said: "The role of Russian soldiers and civilians changed the course of World War II, its outcome and the future of the world."

Mukherjee said it will be an honour to be part of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of World War II which recognises the monumental contributions of Russia to the victory over Nazism and Fascism.

He said he was delighted that an Indian military contingent will be part of the Victory Day parade for the very first time.

"We recall with deep respect the millions who lost their lives during the war. Tens of thousands of Indian soldiers also sacrificed their lives in the war," he said.

The President said the commemoration on May 9 would remind people "of the need for all countries to strive actively for peace for the common benefit of humankind and to never forget lessons of the war".

Recalling his long association with Russia and its leadership during his many decades in public life, Mukherjee said he has met President Vladimir Putin on a number of occasions.

He said during Putin's visit to India last December for the annual summit, he had hosted him.

"We discussed the initiatives currently underway to further strengthen our bilateral partnership," he said, adding that he hopes to continue their conversation "on these matters and on international developments of interest to both our countries".

On bilateral ties, Mukherjee said the "geopolitical realities and cultural affinities have ensured that ours has been a relationship marked by exceptional understanding and convergence of views, through all the realignments in the global political and economic landscape.

"Russia was the first country with which India concluded a formal agreement on strategic partnership in October 2000," Mukherjee recalled.

"In recognition of the considerable strengthening of our multi-faceted relations since then, we now describe our relationship aptly as a special and privileged strategic partnership."

He said during the annual summit last year, both sides identified initiatives to take the economic ties to a significantly higher-level.

"We will be encouraging closer contacts between regions of our two countries to give further impetus in this direction. We are also re-invigorating our cooperation in space."

"An area of considerable promise is cooperation in education, research and innovation. We are actively working towards creating institutional linkages between our educational and research institutions," Mukherjee said.

The President said the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project showcases the bilateral cooperation. The hydrocarbons sector holds great promise.

On defence ties, he said India would like to apply the BrahMos supersonic missile project experience to other defence platforms and equipment.

"We believe that the Make in India initiative provides exciting new opportunities for India-Russia collaboration in setting up manufacturing facilities in India for Russian weapons systems, their sub-assemblies and components," he said.

Putin had "responded very warmly to this approach", Mukherjee said, adding: "We are also putting in place more active service-to-service exchanges, training cooperation and regular military exercises."