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OPINION

Updated January 29th, 2024 at 23:53 IST

Opinion/ Vladivostok to Chennai: Between India and Russia, Timeless Bond Exists

India's engagement with Russia's Far-East, which is rich in oil, gas and minerals, will become the bedrock of a strong India-Russia tie for decades to come.

How PM Modi's 2019 Visit to Vladivostok Turned a New Leaf in India-Russia Ties
How PM Modi's 2019 Visit to Vladivostok Turned a New Leaf in India-Russia Ties | Image:Republic
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New Delhi: India-Russia relations have not only stood the test of time but have also seen a cumulative convergence of interests in the post-cold war era having a shared vision in various fields but the economic, trade and investment have been important areas of focus between the two countries. The largest exports from India to Russia include chemical products, engineering goods and agricultural products. The two sides are also working to expand the trade basket and identify new areas of trade, which range from deep sea exploration to building knowledge based economies. For example, science and technology, innovation, robotics and artificial intelligence, infrastructure and skill development, agriculture, shipbuilding, railways, aviation and greater connectivity, especially through people-to-people  contacts.

How PM Modi's 2019 Visit to Vladivostok Turned a New Leaf in India-Russia Ties

Recently, both Russia and India have shown commitments to make progress towards achieving the target of mutual investment of US $15 billion each way by the year 2025. Prime Minister Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the Russian Far East which stood out due to two reasons: firstly, a new approach to India-Russia relations and secondly, reinvigorating a time-honored bond with Russia. On this occasion, India announced to extend the US $1 billion line of credit for the development of the Russian Far East as part of India’s Act Far East policy. The two countries also agreed to set up a sea link between Vladivostok and Chennai which would connect the two countries through the Malacca Strait and South China Sea, thus bringing Russia into India’s vision of Indo-Pacific. It is to be noted that such developments occurred at a time when there was a rising notion that Russia was drifting away from India on the bilateral relationship but with the Eastern Maritime corridor the vision and mission were accomplished.

Post PM Modi's Vladivostok Visit, Eastern Maritime Corridor Revolutionises India's Maritime Trade

Eastern Maritime Corridor (EMC), which connects Vladivostok in the Russian Far East and Chennai, came amid a surge in oil, coal ,and fertiliser exports from Russia to India. As most of the trade between India and Russia is conducted via the Mumbai -St. Petersburg sea route .With EMC the biggest advantage is the significant reduction in distance upto 40% which will give boost to their trade by saving time and energy .This trade route is strategically important because India will have strategic presence in the South China Sea and the route will not depend on west .It will interest many countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to be a part of this EMC in future . Another advantage to India is that it will provide India a shorter access to Far East countries like Japan. Economic cooperation focusing on new opportunities in the Russian Far East has always been discussed by our Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for a long time as they both emphasised that North-South Transport Corridor and the Chennai-Vladivostok Eastern Maritime Corridor will  rapidly expand energy cooperation that has come a long way with passionate goals. The Atma Nirbhar Bharat of  Modi’s economic vision will be facilitated and the appetite for greater investments by both Russia and India will be fulfilled. Nuclear cooperation between the two countries is also contributing to advancing the government's "Make in India" initiative, as some critical components are gradually being manufactured in India.

PM Modi's Helping Hand in Russia's Far-East Helps Further Cement Bilateral Ties

Russia's decades of experience in developing sophisticated nuclear technology, along with years of strong India-Russia bilateral ties, positions Russia as a suitable partner for boosting India's growing civil nuclear energy demands. The attempt of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reach to the Far East Russia, where he extended a credit line of $1 billion for the development of the region, has also played a major role in strengthening their bonds . His presence in the fifth Eastern Economic Forum as a chief guest in the 20th India-Russia Annual Summit along with Russian president Vladimir Putin Which pointed to the development of business and investment opportunities in the Russian Far East region, and enormous potential for developing close and mutually beneficial cooperation between India and Russia. As our prime minister imagined at the 5th Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, and mentioned that "When ships will start plying between Vladivostok and Chennai with the opening of the maritime routes between the two cities, the Russian port city will become the springboard of northeast asia market in India and  further deepen the India-Russia partnership," also added that the partnership between India and Russia in the development of the Far East will make it a "confluence of open, free and inclusive Indo-Pacific", which has now culminated into a new and fresh start where the dependence will be reduced on the West .The revitalisation of the EMC will bring in new vibes. Indian government’s "Act Far East" policy, which was unveiled during the meet, is now obvious to boost India's engagement with Russia's Far East region, blessed with oil, gas and other minerals and will become the bedrock of a strong India-Russia tie.

New Corridor Between India and Russia a “Game-Changer"

The Indian Minister for ports, shipping & waterways announced  that EMC is the “Game changer" since it has reduced the time of transportation of cargo by up to 16 days that is from 40 days to 24 days . It is of historical significance because the route was operational in the Soviet Era with the objective of renewed interest. It has been revived amid the tension in the Red Sea during the Gaza war . Most attractive commodity is the coking coal and the transportation of the same will increase significantly in the coming years due to the Eastern Maritime Corridor. Russia also reported that EMC can be further linked to the Northern Sea Route (NSR)in order to amplify the benefits to India.Northern Sea Route runs from Barents Sea near Russia -Norway border to Bering Strait between Siberia-Alaska.

The deputy minister of Russia highlighted that the reducing logistic cost and enhancing mutual trade is the main mutual achievement . This cost effective route will make the vision of India more focused and this has been witnessed and appreciated by president Putin .The vision  of Prime Minister Modi to bring India and Russia's Far East more closer as they  have enjoyed close ties for ages. As it is  India was  the first country to open its consulate in Vladivostok in  the era of the Soviet Union, Vladivostok had opened its doors for India at a time when the area was restricted for foreigners. During that time, goods for defence and other development used to reach India through Vladivostok and now there will be a flow of energy supplies and other important products accentuating trade hence will  be lucrative economically and strategically.Prime Minister Narendra Modi and president Vladimir Putin again proved that the two country will remain all weather friends.

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(Dr Vaishali Krishna is an Assistant Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University's Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies in New Delhi)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Published January 29th, 2024 at 23:53 IST

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