Indo-Russia relations

Kashmir Times. Dated: 9/9/2019 12:00:40 AM

India has reconnect and push to 'Act Far East' strengthens relations with traditional friend and ally Russia

In its policy to resurrect the friendly relations and unveiling the latest edition of India's 'Look East, Act East', Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to extend $ One Billion Line Of Credit (LOC) to Russia's Far East Region (RFE) last week. The Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, set up by Russian President Vladimir Putin to attract investment, witnessed Modi making the announcement of LOC expected to help finance Indian business project there will be the take off point for further strengthening the relations with the long-term ally friend Russia. Indian PM's visit also saw several initiatives being launched towards increasing the value of economic ties between the two countries estimated to be around $ 10 Billion in terms of bilateral trade is way behind their strategic partnership and defence relationship. In the past one year alone, India has contracted defence deals worth about $ 14.5 Billion from Russia. The main among the 50 agreements signed between the two countries last week were those on energy exploration and procurement, including a specific MoU on cooperation on LNG supplies to India and maritime route from Vladivostok to Chennai which will be used for energy trade as well. The two sides also agreed on a five-year 'roadmap' for cooperation on prospecting for hydrocarbons and LNG in the Far East and the Arctic, building on a history of Indian investment in oilfields in the region. The policy planners within India hope to see that such agreements with Russia will meet energy security needs of India in the years to come. In fact, this could be a take off point for ensuring energy security which has been lacking till date. In fact, while dealing with Russia and some of the other countries in the Persian Gulf for petroleum supplies, there has been a feeling that India was paying much attention to ensure energy security, which will be a major factor for boosting its economy in the future. The pact scientific cooperation on energy requirements will be a major boost for strengthening the relations between the two countries.
But the current visit of Modi and his commitment to Russia's Far East has far reaching strategic implications which go beyond the bilateral aspect. The major emphasis on energy from this region is as much a bid to benefit from explorations and trade routes in the Arctic that are becoming accessible due to global warming, as it is reflective of India's desire to diversify its energy sources away from an unstable West Asia. The investment in the Far East, which is often neglected given that Russia is seen as a European power in the post-Soviet era, also underlines India's desire to draw Russia into its strategic forays in the Indo-Pacific, where India has been lagging with the NDA-government's policies. The government has said it welcomes cooperation with other countries for investments in RFE, notably Japan, which has in the past few years warmed up to Russia, despite their bitter territorial dispute in the region. This interest is seen as India's attempt to not only keep a traditional friend close, but also to ensure some space in the current clinch between Russia and China. China's cross-border investment in RFE accounts for 71 percent of the total direct foreign investment of $ 33 Billion. 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. The common interests of both India and China in Russia's Far East can also help in bringing down the tensions between the two countries while attempts are being made to normalize the relations. This also leaves the scope for greater cooperation between the two neighbours when China is involved in a bitter trade standoff with US, the largest trade partner. India can become a beneficial partner for China as well as Russia at this juncture and ensure stability in the region.



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