The 22nd session of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC) will be held in New Delhi on September 13.
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and his Indian counterpart, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will co-chair the meeting, held annually alternately in Moscow and New Delhi. They are expected to raise the India-Russia “special, privileged strategic partnership” to a new level across different fields of cooperation; in trade and economic affairs, defence, civil nuclear energy and hydrocarbons.
The IRIGC-TEC is a critical institutional mechanism to promote and strengthen India’s strategic partnership with Russia.
The session will make a thorough review of the progress of joint projects in different fields of bilateral cooperation, on the basis of reports submitted by the various joint working groups (JWG), which have met since the last IRIGC-TEC meeting in October 2015, in Moscow. It will also prepare an ambitious agenda for the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Goa on October 15.
At the IRIGC-TEC meeting, Rogozin and Swaraj will also finalize a number of agreements to be signed during the Putin-Modi summit. The India-Russia summit at the highest political level is being held in October, rather than December, because Putin will be in Goa for the 8th BRICS summit.
This will be Rogozin’s fifth visit to India since the NDA government came to power in 2014. Most recently, he travelled to New Delhi in August and met with Modi to discuss bilateral ties and finalise the agenda for the visit of the Russian President, both for the India-Russia bilateral and BRICS summits, in Goa.
The prospect of joint projects, increased investments, greater participation in oil and gas exploration, expansion of trade and economic relations and defence ties within the framework of Indian government’s “Make in India” programme, will be high on the agenda of the IRIGC meeting, a source told RIR.
Russia is the first country to take the initiative under the “Make in India” programme in the two key strategic sectors of civil nuclear energy and military-technical cooperation.
Ahead of the IRIGC session, in August, during the 5th meeting of India-Russia Working Group on Modernization and Industrial Cooperation in New Delhi, both sides expressed interest in further strengthening and expanding bilateral cooperation between Russian and Indian companies in different sectors. They also took note of discussions held during the meeting of sub-groups on Modernization, Mining, Fertilizers and Civil Aviation.
In the civil aviation sector, Russia has declared its readiness to participate in “Make in India” to develop Indian technical and production capabilities in this field, and potential supplies of the jointly produced equipment to third countries.
Russia has sought more information about Russian companies participating in the $90 billion Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). Last December, during the summit in Moscow, Modi, at a meeting with Russian CEOs, invited them to participate in the Chennai-Bengaluru and Amritsar-Kolkata Industrial Corridors. India has expressed interest to jointly develop iron-ore and coal mines in Russia, which will be high on the Putin-Modi summit agenda.
The IRIGC meeting will discuss all these new areas of investment in joint projects in a more focused way and take decisions on priority projects to increase the volume of bilateral trade and investments corresponding to the high level of political relations between the two countries, the source stressed. Indian Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently said the volume of Indian investments in Russia’s oil and gas sector could reach $15 billion in the next five years.
The volume of current bilateral trade is about $10 billion. Both countries have set a target to raise it to $30 billion by 2025, and mutual investment from $10 billion to $15 billion.
Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in June, Putin said the two countries “needed to transform the positive historical and political buildup into specific areas of cooperation, adding that the bilateral trade turnover is currently “too small” which “absolutely does not correspond to the potential.”
In the light of two countries’ decision to achieve the fixed targets of bilateral trade and investments, the IRIGC meeting will take up the issues of fast-tracking negotiations of the Joint Study Group on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the Custom Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan), hasten development of the International North-South Transport Corridor ((INSTC), trial runs of which took place on August 8, 2016 and upgradation of Chabahar seaport to improve connectivity to Central Asia and Russia.
As the two countries have agreed to place the Indian government’s “Make in India” programme at the centre-stage of their strategic partnership, joint investment and production projects in the priority sectors of nuclear energy, hydrocarbons and defence have recently emerged as the fastest developing spheres of bilateral cooperation.
During the dedication of Unit 1of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, built with Russian assistance, Putin and Modi noted that cooperation in civil nuclear energy was reflective of the “special and privileged strategic partnership.” A total of 6 units (1,000 MW each) are to be built at the plant.
India and Russia are now preparing to sign the general framework agreement on the third stage of the construction (units 5 and 6) of the plant. The IRIGC meeting will finalize the agreement for signing during the Putin-Modi summit. India and Russia have already reached agreement to build another 6 units at another site in India. Russia plans to sell as many as 25 reactors to India.
In July, during his visit to Russia, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu discussed with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev the issue of 6 reactors to be built in his state. It is expected that the IRIGC meeting will take a final decision on the proposal and the project site (Kavali in Nellore district) could announced during Putin-Modi summit.
“Andhra Pradesh will have both American and Russian participation in nuclear energy generation, but the Russians will be the first to ‘Make in India’ in the nuclear sphere in Andhra,” Sitharaman said recently.
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