Source: The Economic Times, Jan 13, 2021
New Delhi: A new trilateral format is taking shape in the Indo-Pacific region, with India, Japan and Russia planning to hold a joint meeting in the near future as part of their emerging partnership.
India took the initiative to hold the trilateral meet amid Russia’s reservations on the Quad format, which involves India, Japan, Australia and the United States. The focus of the meeting would be to explore trilateral cooperation in the resource-rich Russian Far East, according to people aware of the matter.
Russia has been seeking both Indian and Japanese investments and presence in its Far East amid China’s growing presence in the region. The trilateral dialogue will be launched at a Track-2 level involving top three state-run think tanks, said the people.
India is part of several trilateral groupings in the Indo-Pacific region – India-Japan-USA; India-Japan-Australia; India-Indonesia-Australia and India-France-Australia – to ensure stability in the global growth theatre. It has also been interested in active cooperation with Russia.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar had last year suggested an expansion of the partnership between India and Japan in third countries including the Russian Far East. “One is possibility of economic cooperation in Russian Far East, because India has shown much greater willingness to be involved in economic projects there,” he had said at an event organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Vladivostok in 2019 for the annual India-Russia bilateral summit and announced a line of credit (LoC) of $ 1 billion for development projects in the Russian Far East region and initiated India’s Act Far East policy. India has growing interests in the energy deposits in the Russian Far East.
The LoC will facilitate infrastructure and other development projects in various sectors from energy to agriculture to natural resources. India is exploring partnership with provinces of the Russian Far East which are rich in resources but sparsely populated. In 2019, Russia had made it compulsory to employ a significant number of locals in most projects in its Far East amid growing Chinese population in the area.
India is also planning to revive the Chennai-Vladivostok maritime shipping link, which would be a stepping stone towards India-Russia partnership in the Indo-Pacific region. This shipping link, which existed during the Soviet era, will enable transfer of cargo between Chennai and Vladivostok in 24 days compared to more than 40 days currently via Europe.
The Russian Far East has a wealth of natural resources such as land, timber, mineral, tin, gold, diamonds and oil and natural gas. The Russian government has announced several initiatives to attract investments in the region, including an agricultural special economic zone and the Vladivostok Free Port Project, and invited participation in the timber industry and mining of the huge mineral resources and precious metal deposits in the region.