New Delhi, Sep 2 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modis visit to Vladivostok to participate in the 5th Eastern Economic Forum as Chief Guest and also to hold the 20th annual bilateral summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin will see the two sides give a major push to connectivity, through a proposed sea route between Chennai and Vladivostok and also the International North South Transport Corridor.
The Chennai-Vladivostok shipping route would boost trade between the mineral-rich Russian far eastern region and India.
It would help transfer cargo in 24 days in comparison to over 40 days currently taken to transport goods from India to the Far East Russia via Europe.
The move is also aimed at countering China's ambitious Maritime Silk Route (MSR) connecting Asia with Africa, which is part of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
The other connectivity route that India and Russia plan to push ahead with is the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), a mainly overland route that would extend from shipping originating in Mumbai through to Iran's Chabahar Port, and overland to Central Asia and Russia.
The Chennai-Vladivostok shipping route concept was discussed during the visit of then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's visit to Vladivostok to attend the Eastern Economic Forum in July 2018.
Russia is keen for India, rather than China, to expand its presence in its far eastern region, to tap the natural resources there, including large reserves of oil and gas as well as diamonds.
With India being known as a centre for diamond processing, the cooperation in diamonds with Russian Far East would lend a sparkle to ties as the region boasts of the world's largest reserves.
The Eurasian Diamond Centre (EDC), set up in the Vladivostok Free Trade Zone, is aimed to create a diamond infrastructure cluster in the Russian Far East to focus on export-import operations with countries of the Asia-Pacific region. The EDC is part of ARLOSA, a group of Russian diamond mining companies and a world leader in the diamond mining industry, holding the world's largest diamond reserves in Yakutia. India's KGK Diamonds Private Ltd, a global leader in diamond cutting, is already working with the EDC in Vladivostok.
Russia's Far Eastern Federal District though twice the size of India is also the least populated of the eight federal districts of Russia, with a population of roughly 6.3 million. India was the first country to establish a resident Consulate in Vladivostok in 1992.
Current engagement of India with the region is limited to isolated pockets, such as the Irkut Corporation in Irkutsk where the Mig and Sukhoi aircraft are built, ONGC Visesh Limited is also working in the Sakhalin 1 project, and the Eurasian Diamond Centre.
The Russian Far East has a wealth of natural resources, including land, timber, tin, gold, diamonds, tungsten, platinum, besides oil and natural gas. There are huge opportunities for agro-processing.
The International North South International Corridor is a 7,200km road, rail and sea route that is proposed to connect India with Iran and Russia. This corridor would connect the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran, and then connect to St. Petersburg and North Europe via Russia.
Studies, carried out by the Indian Federation of Freight Forwarders, have shown cost savings of 30 per cent with a 40 per cent less delivery time by using the INSTC route to Russia rather than the standard routing.
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