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All India Radio (AIR) IAS UPSC - Eastern Economic Forum
Published on Sept. 30, 2019, 5:41 p.m.

Eastern Economic Forum

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TOPIC: General Studies 2:
  • India and its neighbourhood relations, International relations.
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

About Eastern Economic Forum

EEF was established by a decree of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, in 2015, with the aim of supporting the economic development of Russia’s Far East, and to expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. The ongoing EEF Summit at the Far Eastern Federal University is the fifth in its history.

Among the participants in the Summit are India, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. According to the EEF website, the 2018 Summit was attended by more than 6,000 participants from over 60 countries, and over 220 agreements worth over RUB 3.1 trillion were signed. (Each Russian ruble is almost exactly worth 1 Indian rupee.)

The Summits have roundtable conferences, panel sessions, business breakfasts, besides business dialogues and bilateral talks and agreements.

What has the EEF achieved till now?

In the last five years, as many as 17 different countries have invested in the Far East, according to the EEF website. These include regional and global heavyweights like China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam. 

  • As a result, 20 advanced special economic zones and five free ports have been put in place. 
  • A total of 1,780 new investment projects, worth over 3.8 trillion rubles, and 230 new enterprises have become functional, the EEF website says.

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.

Modi in Russia

Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian premier to visit the Far East Russia. Announcing $1 billion loan for the development of Russia's Far East, Modi said it was a 'unique case' of India providing such special credit line

  • The launch of a Russian-Indian joint venture for manufacturing AK-203 Kalashnikov assault rifles in India will bring bilateral cooperation in the military and technical area to a new level
  • Putin and Modi signed 15 agreements, MoUs to strengthen bilateral ties.
  • The prime minister unveiled his government's "Act Far East" policy to boost India's engagement with Russia's Far East region, blessed with oil, gas and other minerals. The Far East will become the bedrock of a strong India-Russia tie, which is based on the principles of "rules-based order, sovereignty, respect for territorial integrity and is against engaging in the internal matters of other countries".

Vladivostok and India

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. This will further deepen the India-Russia partnership." Modi 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".

In Russian, Vladivostok is ‘Ruler of the East’. Located on the Golden Horn Bay north of North Korea and a short distance from Russia’s border with China, it is the largest port on Russia’s Pacific coast, and home to the Pacific Fleet of the Russian Navy. It is the eastern railhead of the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway, which connects the far east of Russia to the capital Moscow, and further west to the countries of Europe. At Vladivostok’s massive port, shipping and commercial fishing are the main commercial activities. Automobiles are a major item of import at the port, from where they are often transported further inland.

Trade and strategy

India is building nuclear power plants with Russia’s collaboration in Kudankulam on the sea coast in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district. The opening of a sea route is likely to help in the project. Even otherwise, a vibrant sea route will help in the upscaling of trade relations between the two nations. It will also increase India’s presence in the Indo-Pacific, and especially the South China Sea, a deeply contested patch of the ocean that Beijing considers its stomping ground.

Connecting the dots:

  • India and Russia have been strategic partners even before cold war era. Critically analyse the defence relation between two countries and what can be possible way forward.