Eastern Economic Forum

  • Recently, the Indian Prime Minister attended the 5th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) held between 4 -6 September in Vladivostok, Russia.
  • This is the first ever visit of any Indian Prime Ministerto the Russian Far East Region (Vladivostok). India has the status of a guest country at the EEF 2019.
  • India unveiled the "Act Far East" policy to boost India's engagement with Russia's Far East region.
  • It is to be noted that India was the first country in the world to open a consulate in Vladivostok and Act Far East is said to be an extension to India’s Act East policy.

Important Agreements between India and Russia

  • Line of Credit for Russian Far East: India would extend a $1 billion line of credit towards the development of the Russian Far East.
  • Aim to Increase Bilateral Trade: Both the countries decided to step up industrial cooperation and create new technological and investment partnership, especially in advanced high-tech areas, with an aim to increase bilateral trade to USD 30 billion by 2025. It was also agreed to intensify work for eliminating trade barriers.
  • Russian Investment in Make in India: Both the sides expressed their interest in expanding the participation of Russian business in 'Make in India' programme and that of Indian companies in investment projects in Russia.
  • Development of North-South Transport Corridor:To promote further development of trade and economic ties between India and Russia, the Sides intend to work on improving the transport infrastructure with much emphasis on the development of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
  • Development of Maritime Route:A Memorandum of Intent has been signed to open a full-fledged maritime route between Russia’s eastern port city(Vladivostok) and Chennai. This will reduce the transport time from existing 40 days to 24 days.
  • Strengthening BRICS Partnership:Both Sides agreed to strengthen multisectoral partnership within BRICSand agreed toextend full support to the success of the 11th BRICS Summit to be held in Brazil in November 2019.

Eastern Economic Forum(EEF)

  • Established in 2015by decree of the President of the Russian Federation, it provides a common platform for discussion on the global economy, regional integration, business dialogues and technological collaborations, especially with the Asia-Pacific neighbours.

Aim

  • To support the economic development of Russia’s Far East region and its people that live here, providing them with the confidence that their dreams will become a reality in the nearest future.
  • To make the Russian Far East more accessible to investors.
  • To expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

Russian far East

  • It comprises the easternmost territory of Russia, between Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia and the Pacific Ocean, consisting of the following regions:
    • Amur Oblast
    • Chukotka
    • Jewish Autonomous Oblast
    • Kamchatka
    • Khabarovsk Krai
    • Kuril Islands
    • Magadan Oblast
    • PrimorskyKrai
    • Sakhalin
    • Yakutia
  • This region shares land borders with the People's Republic of China, Mangoliaand the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to its south, and shares maritime borders with United States to its northeast and Japan to its southeast.
  • This region is endowed with economically important natural resources such as diamonds, borax materials, gold, tungsten, stannary, and a variety of fish and seafood. About 1/3 of all coal reserves and hydro-engineering resources of the Russia is located here.
  • In the north,it is covered by Arctic tundra while forest taiga occupies the central section.
  • The ethnic groups which inhabit this region include: Jews, Koryaks, Tungus, Chukchi, Yakuts, and Kamchatkans.

Significance

  • The EEF is geared towards showcasing the little known potential held by the easternmost area of Russia which is rich in minerals and other resources.
  • The EEF focuses on development of business and investment opportunities in the Russian Far East Region, and presents enormous potential for developing close as well as mutually beneficial co-operation between India and Russia in the region.

Importance of EEF to India

Geopolitical Importance

  • Russia’s presence in the Indian Ocean is insignificant, while India is yet to have its firm footprints in the Pacific. India is a strong power in the Indian Ocean with a serious interest in the Pacific Ocean; Russia is a strong Pacific power with an interest in the Indian Ocean. EEf provides an opportunity to India in order to protect its interests and ensure maritime security in the Pacific region.

Geostrategic Importance

  • The Vladivostok-Chennai sea link is somewhat a counter to China's Maritime Silk Route (MSR) plan as part of One Belt One Road Project(OBOR). The proposed sea is likely to pass through or very close to the South China Sea, which China has turned into an international geostrategic hotspot, would become an extension of existing India-Japan Pacific to Indian Ocean Corridor, which China considers as a challenge to itsmaritime OBOR plan in the region.
  • Seen from geostrategic lens, this gives India another vantage point to counter Chinese game of encircling India through what is called the String of Pearls policy.

Economic Importance

  • Russian Far East is a resource rich region is rich in various natural resources like oil, natural gas, timber, gold and diamond. An area of special interest for India is the exploration of hydrocarbon reserves along the coast of Russia’s Far East. The Forum will help India to gain access to these valuable resources easily mainly to oil and gas in order to meet its rising domestic demands.

Way Forward

  • The EEF can open up new avenues of cooperation between India and Russia in the fields of defence, military cooperation, nuclear energy, space, mining, culture and diplomacy. Their successes at the bilateral front can be replicated at a wider multilateral front for the Asia-Pacific region.
  • The maiden visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Vladivostok is set to strengthen India's position in Asia-Pacific that has emerged as the kernel of future geo-strategy.

Source : Civil Services Chronicle Online, September, 2019