Khurshid will raise the issue of the possible signing of the CECA to boost the trade, economic and investments between the two countries, without any further delay. Source: AP
India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will arrive in Moscow from Almaty (Kazakhstan) on April 27 for his three-day visit to co-chair the inter-session meeting of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC) on April 29 with his Russian counterpart and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. Khurshid will be in Almaty to attend the “Heart of Asia” conference on April 26 being held under the aegis of the “Istanbul Process” on Afghanistan.
At the inter-session meeting of the IRIGC, Khurshid and Rogozin will discuss the entire gamut of bilateral relations in terms of trade, economic, scientific, technological and cultural cooperation, in the run up to the full-fledged session of the 19th IRIGC in the Russian capital, expected to be held before the regular annual summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, later this year.
During his visit, Khurshid will also hold wide-ranging talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on bilateral relations, and international and regional issues, with the main focus on the preparations for Russia-India summit high on the agenda, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukasevich told reporters at a briefing.
At the IRIGC meeting, the two Co-chairs will review the progress in the bilateral trade and economic cooperation since the Putin-Singh summit in December in New Delhi and approve appropriate decisions to resolve the sticky issues obstructing the further growth of trade, investment and economic cooperation, between the two countries.
The IRIGC meeting being an inter-session meeting, the sides are expected to have a “frank exchange” of views, but in terms of any outcomes, they will not sign any documents or MoUs.
The practice of holding the inter-session meeting, first started in July 2012, when Rogozin as newly-appointed co-chairman of the IRIGC, visited New Delhi on the invitation of the-then External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna for the inter-session meeting which was followed subsequently by a full-fledged meeting. With Khurshid taking over the co-chairmanship from his predecessor, this will be second inter-session meeting of the IRIGC in Moscow.
In March, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai was in Moscow to prepare for the Khrushid’s visit within the framework of the consultations on Foreign Ministries’ level. Mathai held negotiations with his Russian counterpart First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov on strategic sectors of cooperation such as nuclear energy and hydrocarbons, along with other issues of bilateral importance in the economic, consular protocol and cultural areas, for the IRIGC meeting.
In the run up to the IRIGC inter-session meeting, the two sides have already resolved the most disputable issues of AFK Sistema and the planned construction of 3rd and 4th units of Kudankulam nuclear power plant, following the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) last month approved the proposal to grant administrative and financial sanction for building two more units. The CCS nod paves the way for signing of the General Framework Agreement (GFA) between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCL) and Russian suppliers of nuclear equipment.
Now India looks forward to a “quantum jump” in bilateral investments and trade turnover when the prospects for signing in the near future a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan brightening up. The first ministerial meeting to discuss the CECA will be held on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in June.
Earlier this month, India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma held talks with his Russian counterparts ahead of the IRIGC inter-session meeting to have a “real assessment on the ground” to facilitate inputs for the External Affairs Minister so that a powerful thrust could be given to increase the bilateral trade turnover and investments, in the next few years.
“I can foresee a manifold jump in investments of Russian and Indian companies in each other’s economies, given the measures we have taken and the kind of intensification of our cooperation in recent years,” Sharma said.
It is expected that Khurshid during his talks with the Russian side, will raise the issue of the possible signing of the CECA to boost the trade, economic and investments between the two countries, without any further delay.
The IRIGC is the apex forum for bilateral economic cooperation and a vital pillar of the “special and privileged partnership” between India and Russia. It includes a wide spectrum of representatives from various ministries and agencies and integrates inputs from six Working Groups : economic and trade cooperation; energy and energy efficiency; tourism and culture; science and technology; information technology; and modernization and industrial cooperation. The inputs at the IRIGC meetings, held alternately in New Delhi and Moscow, are analyzed and the outcome placed at the annual summit, at the highest political level.
The IRIGC inter-session meeting is also being held in the backdrop of bilateral trade crossing $11 billion in 2012. India-Russia trade registered about 25 percent growth in 2012 compared to 2011. “If we continue with the 25 percent growth, we will definitely meet the target of $20 billion which we have set to achieve by 2015,” Sharma said.
Recently India has been stepping up cooperation with Russia in hydrocarbons, fertilizers and diamonds. The two sides have already identified five priority projects in hydrocarbons with Russia’s Gazprom, Rosneft and Novatek in the Far East, the Urals and the Arctic, including offshore fields.
India has already taken new initiatives this year, to further exploit complementarities in a number of sectors, including fertilizers, pharmaceuticals and diamonds. Recently it has proposed to Russians to take equity in Alrosa, the state-owned diamond mining monopoly. Russia wants to privatize Alrosa in 2016. India is the largest importer of Russia’s rough diamonds and it is very keenly interested in acquiring a foothold in the Russian diamond industry.
During the IRIGC meeting, the Indian side is also to seek more Russian investments in the infrastructure sector, in particular, in the government’s ambitious $90 billion Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), being built in collaboration with Japan. At the 18th IRIGC meeting in New Delhi, in December, India for the first time invited Russians to participate in the DMIC, in view of the country’s growing economy and major initiatives in terms of the national manufacturing policy (NMP) and infrastructure development projects such as the DMIC offering good prospects for Russian investors and businesses.
It may be recalled that during his recent visit to Moscow, Sharma renewed the offer to the Russian side to participate in at least one of the industrialized mega townships to be developed on a public private partnership model, in the DMIC. Seven National Manufacturing and Investment Zones (NMIZ) have been identified along the DMIC. Inspired by the DMIC project’s rapid progress, India has also started work on two more industrial corridors between Bangalore and Chennai and Bangalore and Mumbai.
India is already seeking investments from Germany and Britain to develop these industrial mega zones. A “positive nod” from the Russian side at the IRIGC meeting to participate in the DMIC projects would be a major gain for the two sides to further boost bilateral trade and investments, a source told this writer.
Dadan Upadhyay is an Indian journalist based in Moscow.
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