Far Eastern Economic Forum 2021

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    • Recently, the PM of India participated virtually in the Far Eastern Economic Forum 2021 Summit.

    Key Pointers by the PM

    • The Prime Minister of India said that the friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time and it was seen during the Covid pandemic.
    • COVID:
      • Covid had highlighted the importance of health and pharma sectors in both the countries’ bilateral cooperation. 
    • Act Far East Policy:
      • Vladivostok is truly a ‘Sangam’ of Eurasia and the Pacific. 
      • President Putin’s vision for the development of the Russian Far East is worth the praise. 
      • India will be a reliable partner for Russia in realizing this vision. In 2019 India announced a commitment to an “Act Far-East” policy
      • This policy is an important part of a special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia.
    • Energy Partnership:
      • India-Russia energy partnership can help bring stability to the global energy market. 
      • The Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas is in Vladivostok to represent India at this forum.
      • Indian workers are participating in major gas projects in the Amur region, from Yamal to Vladivostok and onward to Chennai.
    • Space Exploration
      • India and Russia are partners in space exploration through the Gaganyaan program.
    • International Trade and Commerce:
      • India and Russia will also be partners in the opening the Northern Sea Route for international trade and Commerce. 
      • Chennai – Vladivostok Maritime Corridor is making headway. 
      • This connectivity project along with the International North-South Corridor will bring India and Russia physically closer to each other.
      • One of India’s biggest shipyards Mazagon Docks Limited will partner with ‘Zvezda’ for the construction of some of the most important commercial ships in the world.

    Eastern Economic Forum

    • EEF is an international forum organised each year in Vladivostok, Russia
    • It was first held in September 2015, at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, to support the economic development of Russia’s Far East and to expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. 
    • This was the 6th session of the EEU.
    • This forum is sponsored by the organizing committee appointed by Roscongress.
    • Serves as a platform for the discussion of key issues in the world economy, regional integration, and the development of new industrial and technological sectors, as well as of the global challenges facing Russia and other nations.

    (Image Courtesy: Far East Federal District)

    • About the Far East:
      • It is the easternmost part of Russia. 
      • It borders two oceans, the Pacific and the Arctic, and five countries (China, Japan, Mongolia, the United States and the DPRK).
      • The Far Eastern Federal District covers more than a third of the country’s territory.
      • It is rich in natural resources like diamonds, stannary, borax materials, 50 gold, tungsten, and 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.

    India-Russia Relations

    • Political Relations: The Annual Summit meeting between the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation is the highest institutionalized dialogue mechanism in the strategic partnership between India and Russia. So far 20 Annual Summit meetings have taken place alternatively in India and Russia. 
    • Intergovernmental Commissions: There is regular high-level interaction between the two countries. Two Inter-Governmental Commissions – one on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC), co-chaired by EAM and the Russian DPM, and another on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC- MTC) co-chaired by Russian and Indian Defence Ministers, meet annually.
    • International/Multilateral Organizations and Connectivity Projects:
      • BRICS
      • SCO
      • UN Security Council: India & Russia reaffirmed the need to reform the UNSC to better reflect the current world order.
      • Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG): Russia has been a long-standing supporter of India’s membership of the NSG. 
    • Trade and Economic Relations: Both sides revised targets of increasing bilateral investment to US $ 50 billion and bilateral trade to the US $ 30 billion by 2025. 
    • Bilateral investment: Russian investment in India in 2017 has reached 18bn USD and India’s total investment in Russia so far is 13 bn USD. The investment target of 30 bn USD by 2025 has been achieved.
    • Nuclear Energy: Russia recognizes India as a country with advanced nuclear technology with an impeccable non-proliferation record. Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is being built in India with Russian cooperation. 
    • Space Cooperation: Both sides cooperate in the peaceful uses of outer space, including satellite launches, GLONASS navigation system, remote sensing and other societal applications of outer space.
    • Science & Technology: The Working Group on Science and Technology functioning under IRIGC-TEC, the Integrated Long Term Programme (ILTP) and the Basic Science Cooperation Programme are the three main institutional mechanisms for bilateral Science and Technology cooperation.
    • Cultural Cooperation: There is a strong tradition of Indian studies in Russia. JNCC maintains close cooperation with leading Russian institutions. There is strong interest among Russian people in Indian dance, music, yoga and Ayurveda.

    Opportunities

    • Similar Approach: As the US-China rivalry threatens to disrupt the order of the day, India and Russia remain supporters of multipolar world order.
    • Strategic Space to Each Other: The most important, critical takeaway from the relationship for both countries is the strategic space they provide each other to deal with the US, China and other great powers.
    • Multilateral Cooperation: The willingness towards continued cooperation is visible in formats including BRICS, UNSC, NSG, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the Eurasian Economic Union. 
    • Inclusive Indo-Pacific: The proposed Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor could improve trade ties with the Russian Far East and the link will also act as a bridge between the Eurasian Union and open, free and inclusive Indo-Pacific. 

    Challenges

    • External Factors: The world is grappling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While their bilateral relationship is free of active conflict, the repercussions of external factors can no longer be ignored or underestimated. 
    • Proximity to China: Since 2014, China has emerged as Russia’s key external partner, brought even closer due to their continued tensions with the US-led West. On the other hand, India has witnessed a steady deterioration in relations with an increasingly aggressive China. 
    • US Reservations: While India is keen on buying the S-400 air defence system from Russia, the USA has repeatedly expressed reservations – the Trump administration did not invoke sanctions on Indian entities and the Biden administration is yet to take a call.
    • Relations with Others: At a time of uncertainty in a changing world, it is difficult to ensure that India’s and Russia’s engagement with other powers does not come at the expense of their bilateral partnership.

    Way Ahead

    • Revitalize the bilateral India-Russia agenda: In this regard, an action like the quiet diplomatic effort by Russia last year to get India and China to the table during their border clashes is critical for building confidence and much more effective than a public airing of differences. 
    • Revive the Economic Agenda: While cooperation in the defence and energy sector will continue to form the bedrock of the ties, a more broad-based economic engagement is urgently needed.
      • A forward-looking economic agenda should include cooperation in the hi-tech sector, biotechnology, nanotechnology, AI, space, start-up and innovation, pharmaceuticals, healthcare etc. to harness the strengths of the two countries.
    • Free & Frank Discussions: Neither India-China ties nor US-Russia ties are expected to improve in the short term. Thus, it might be prudent to intensify “free and frank” discussions on all issues to maintain neutrality on issues of core concern for each other while taking steps to strengthen the bilateral relationship.
    • Cooperation in the Far East and the Arctic: Furthering cooperation in the Russian Far East and the Arctic, both in bilateral and multilateral formats, would be beneficial for India.
    • Talks on Afghanistan Peace: It may be useful to discuss reviving the cooperation between India, Iran and Russia on Afghanistan.

    Source: LM