Joint India-Russia Maritime Body to meet soon

The Joint Maritime Commission of India and Russia is expected to meet soon to give a major boost to maritime connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region through the Chennai-Vladivostok shipping link, strengthen the joint shipbuilding project and cooperate in the inland waterway sector.

The commission, which will feed into bilateral projects in Russia’s Far East, plans to meet in the near future, people familiar with the matter said.

The issue was discussed at a virtual meeting between Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov during their joint commission on Monday.

The Chennai-Vladivostok sea route was revived and helped boost bilateral trade last year under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Far East Policy Act.

Last year Russia offered India “leasing and building large ships” as insurance for Russian oil amid the G7 price cap on its energy purchases. In 2021, India and Russia had decided to focus on the civil shipbuilding field to facilitate the improvement of interaction and professional training, investment in shipbuilding and repair, scientific research, development of intelligent transportation and navigation systems, and international transport corridors. The civilian ships are also intended for oil trading.

In 2021, Mazagaon Dock Ltd and Russia’s Zvezda Shipyard signed an agreement on merchant shipping and shipbuilding.

India has ambitious plans for the resource-rich Russian Far East and Modi had announced a $1 billion credit line for various projects in the region while announcing India’s Act Far East Policy from Vladivostok in 2019. The Act Far East policy contributing to India’s Indo-Pacific strategy and the Russian Far East is a key element of the emerging Indo-Russian partnership in the Indo-Pacific and ASEAN. Energy is one of the key pillars of Delhi’s Act Far East Policy.

Russia has the largest known reserves of natural gas in the world, and much of those reserves are in its Far East. India’s total investment in oil and gas projects in Russia exceeds US$15 billion. It is the largest single destination for India’s foreign investment in the oil and gas sector.

At the same time, the Arctic is opening up new opportunities for hydrocarbons and other potential resources that lie unexplored beneath its ice. Russia retains a dominant position in the Arctic and views the region as its strategic backyard. The North Sea Route across the Arctic is an attractive proposition and there are proposals to link the route to the North-South International Transport Corridor.

According to people familiar with the matter, India had also sought a partnership with Russia to improve navigation on India’s inland waterways.

Last year, Russia released its new ocean doctrine, which placed India at the heart of its Indian Ocean strategy, which includes joint exploration of offshore hydrocarbons and the laying of underwater pipelines.

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