RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- PM AT EASTERN ECONOMIC FORUM
Speaking at the Eastern Economic Forum at Vladivostok, Prime Minister Modi while unveiling the “Act Far East” policy, extended 1 billion dollar Line of Credit to Russia’s Far East. The Prime Minister also reiterated that India will walk shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia, its time-tested friend, in its development of the resource-rich Far East region. Act Far East Policy comes in succession to Modi governments ‘Act East Policy’ which was developed soon after his government came into power first time in 2014. Addressing the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum, the Prime Minister said that his government has engaged nations in the East Asia under India’s new “Act East” policy. The mandate of Eastern Economic Forum is aimed at developing the business and investment opportunities in Russia’s Far East Region.
Eastern Economic Forum:
- The Eastern Economic Forum 2019 was took place on 4–6 September in Vladivostok on the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) campus.
- The Eastern Economic Forum was established by decree of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin in 2015 to support the economic development of Russia’s Far East and to expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Far East:
- The Far East is the easternmost part of Russia.
- The macro-region borders two oceans, the Pacific and the Arctic, and five countries (China, Japan, Mongolia, the United States and the DPRK).
- The Far Eastern region spreads over four time zones and various climate zones: from northern deserts to subtropics.
- The Far Eastern Federal District covers more than a third of the country’s territory.
- The area of the region is 6.952.555 km2, which is about 41% of the area of the entire country (the largest federal districts in terms of size).
- Over the past few years, the Far East has been a dynamically developing part of the Russian Federation. Unique mechanisms such as Advanced Special Economic Zones are to create a favourable investment climate.
- The Far East is rich in natural resources. The macro-region extracts 98% of Russian diamonds, 80% of stannary, 90% of borax materials, 50% of gold, 14% of tungsten, and 40% of fish and seafood. About 1/3 of all coal reserves and hydro-engineering resources of the country are here. Forests of the region comprise about 30% of the total forest area of Russia.
What is India’s interest in the EEF?
- Prime Minister Modi has described the EEF as a “historic opportunity” to give new impetus to the cooperation between India and Russia.
- He has said that the relationship between the two countries has “special chemistry, special ease”, even pointing out that Siberian cranes migrate to “my home state Gujarat”.
- Going beyond the bonhomie and historical ties, India is also a key customer of the Russian arms industry.
- In March, India entered into a joint venture with Russia to manufacture the legendary Kalashnikov assault rifles in India. In 2018, Russia sold the S-400 advanced air defence system to India.
- India is interested in expanding the level of trade between the two countries. An area of special interest for India is the exploration of hydrocarbon reserves along the coast of Russia’s Far East.
Trade and Business:
- PM Modi said a proposal has been made to have a full fledged maritime route between Chennai and Vladivostok.
- The two leaders “agreed to facilitate, in all possible ways, exploring the impressive potential of our strategic partnership to the full, demonstrating its special and privileged nature which has emerged as an anchor of stability in a complex international situation.”
- The two sides “prioritise strong, multifaceted trade and economic cooperation as the foundation for further expanding the range of India-Russia relations,” it added.
- The two leaders decided to take the bilateral trade from the current $11 billion to $30 billion by 2025.
- The two sides noted the pace of progress achieved in the construction of the remaining four of the six nuclear power plants at Kudankulam.
- Modi said Russia will help train Indian astronauts for the manned space mission —
- Noting that close cooperation in military-technical fields is a pillar of Indo-Russia Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.
- The statement said the two sides vowed to upgrade their defence cooperation, including by fostering joint development and production of military equipment, components and spare parts.
- They shared the view that “implementation in good faith of universally recognised principles and rules of international law excludes the practice of double standards or imposition of some States of their will on other States.”
- The two sides expressed their support for an inclusive peace and Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation in Afghanistan.
- They reaffirmed their commitment to building an equal and indivisible security architecture in Asia and the Pacific region.
- They called for reform of the UN Security Council to reflect contemporary global realities.
- Russia expressed its support for India’s candidacy for a permanent membership of the UNSC.
India’s attempt to not only keep a traditional friend close, but to ensure some space in the current clinch between Russia and China. China’s cross-border investment in RFE accounts for 71% of the total direct foreign investment of $33 billion.
Despite concerns in India about growing closeness between Russia and Pakistan, Moscow stood by India on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, arguing that “India’s decision [on Jammu and Kashmir] is a sovereign decision which is as per its Constitution” and that “Moscow follows a policy of non-interference in domestic affairs of countries.” After initially ignoring India, Russia also made a course correction on Afghanistan, recognising that India’s involvement in Afghanistan remains necessary if the war-torn nation is to see long term stability.
The challenge in front of India and Russia is that they need to transform a 20th century partnership and make it fit for the 21st century. Global trends are evolving rapidly and major powers are re-defining their ties with each other to match their contemporary requirements. New Delhi and Moscow cannot be fixated on the past and can’t expect exclusionary bilateral ties from each other. The good news is that the top leadership has recognised the challenge and is ready to take corrective measures. The challenge is that this can’t be a one off measure. It will have to be a continuous engagement to sustain the momentum created by regular outreach between the top leaders.
Modi is right when he argues that the greatest achievement of the last 20 years in India-Russia ties is “trust.” Both nations should build on this trust to carve out a modern, broad-based partnership more in sync with contemporary realities.
- A joint statement issued later said the two sides “underlined the primacy of international law and emphasised their commitment to the purposes and the principles stated in the UN Charter including the inadmissibility of interference in the internal affairs of member states.”
- India and Russia have identified several new areas of cooperation.
- These range from deep sea exploration to building knowledge based economies based on science and technology, innovation, robotics and artificial intelligence, focussing on infrastructure, skill development, agriculture, shipbuilding, railways, aviation and greater connectivity, especially people-to-people contacts.
- The two countries decided to setup more than 20 Russian designed nuclear units in India in the next 20-years.
Above all, the push to ‘Act Far East’ allows India to demonstrate its commitment to an area of concern for Moscow, thus reassuring its traditional partner that in an increasingly polarised world, India is confident of working with multiple alignments, even if they are at cross purposes with each other.
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