Explained: Why the Eastern Economic Forum matters for Indiahttps://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-why-the-eastern-economic-forum-matters-for-india-5969748/

Explained: Why the Eastern Economic Forum matters for India

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visit Zvezda shipyard, accompanied by Rosneft Russian oil giant chief Igor Sechin, ahead of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, September 4, 2019. (Alexander Nemenov/Pool via REUTERS)

Speaking at the Plenary Session of the 5th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India would extend a $1 billion line of credit towards the development of the Russian Far East.

The PM recalled that India was the first country in the world to open a consulate in Vladivostok, and underlined the age and depth of the country’s relations with the Far East. Engaging closely with East Asia was in line with India’s policy goal of “Act East”, he said.

“I’m thankful to President (Vladimir) Putin (of Russia) for inviting me here. India is the first country that opened its consulate in Vladivostok,” Modi said in his address to the EEF Thursday. “For the development of Far East, India will give a line of credit worth USD 1 billion. My government has actively engaged in East Asia as part of its ‘Act East’ policy. This will also give a new dimension to our economic diplomacy.”

The EEF Summit began in Vladivostok on September 4, and will go on until September 6.

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What is the EEF?

According to its website, the 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.