India Needs A Comprehensive Geo-Economic Action Plan For The Russian Far East
This should be undertaken in full consultation with the Indian diaspora in Vladivostok, that country’s consulate there, a range of economic and political experts from both countries, and of course their related government departments. A pipeline of talent should be created for funneling interested Indians into the Russian Far East, where they can get educated, work, and then be fast-tracked for residency and citizenship.
The Russian Far East is barely thought of when discussing the Indo-Pacific yet it occupies the majority of Northeast Asia and connects the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. This resource-rich and scarcely populated region has enormous potential for investors, though its attractiveness has admittedly been dented in response to the unprecedented US-led Western sanctions against that country. Nevertheless, India has proven itself a stalwart defender of its objective national interests as seen by it scaling up Russian oil imports by literally 50 times over the past few months, which makes the South Asian civilization-state the most likely partner for developing this strategic region.
President Putin and Prime Minister Modi jointly announced the Vladivostok-Chennai Maritime Corridor (VCMC) during the second-mentioned’s appearance at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) as his host’s guest of honor in September 2019, yet little has been done in the nearly three years since due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s profound disruption of global trade. As a new economic reality begins to descend upon the world following the bifurcation of the previously globalized system into the US-led West’s Golden Billion and the BRICS-led Global South, India has the opportunity to turn Russia’s relative economic isolation into a mutual benefit by playing a leading role in the Far East’s development.
This rising Great Power is much too important to the Golden Billion for them to punish it in response to its pragmatic geo-economic engagement with Russia, which isn’t just optimistic speculation but proven by its participation in the recent G7 Summit in spite of defying the West by expanding its trade with Russia over the past one-third of a year since the start of its ongoing special military operation in Ukraine. The Far East is attractive to India not just because of its abundant resources, but also because Delhi already extended a $1 billion line of credit to the region during the earlier mentioned EEF. Moreover, legal reforms over the past years have created many special economic zones there too.
It's also worth mentioning that the whopping 99-paragraph joint statement that their leaders agreed to during President Putin’s trip to Delhi in early December includes four paragraphs (31-34) about cooperation in the Far East. This confirms that the VCMC still remains a priority for these Great Powers despite having been unexpectedly put on the backburner due to the pandemic. India’s decisive intervention since the Ukrainian Conflict in becoming Russia’s irreplaceable valve from Western pressure and thus preemptively averting its partner’s potentially disproportionate dependence on China in response is also immensely appreciated by the Kremlin, which is eager for more Indian investments.
All of these factors combine to create a fresh impetus for India to craft a comprehensive geo-economic actin plan for the Russian Far East as soon as possible. This should be undertaken in full consultation with the Indian diaspora in Vladivostok, that country’s consulate there, a range of economic and political experts from both countries, and of course their related government departments. The fruits of their collective labor should ideally culminate in the creation of a joint flagship project that can serve as the anchor for other investments in the Russian Far East, whether by either of those two countries or their third-party partners like Vietnam for instance.
Resource extraction will clearly dominate this prospective action plan by virtue of being the most profitable regional industry, but that mustn’t be all that there is to it. Russia’s looking to attract immigrants from friendly countries who are eager to assimilate and integrate into its society per the relevant legal reforms undertaken in recent years for facilitating the granting of permanent residency and even citizenship, including for investors. The Indian people are held in the highest of regard by Russians and have been for decades, so the state and society would surely welcome them with open arms, especially in the Far East if they choose to settle there to help develop this promising region.
Building upon the necessary social basis for any sustainable geo-economic action plan in this part of the Indo-Pacific, it would be a good idea to also focus on educational exchanges with Vladivostok’s Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU). Indian Russophiles could possibly be incentivized to study there to learn the culture and language prior to being offered jobs in local businesses that their compatriots might have hopefully already created by then as part of the proposed joint flagship for the region. Put another way, a pipeline of talent should be created for funneling interested Indians into the Russian Far East, where they can get educated, work, and then be fast-tracked for residency and citizenship.
The Indian diaspora has always enriched every community across the world that they’ve settled in, and the Far East’s capital of Vladivostok is no exception. Nevertheless, they can do much more than they presently are if offered the proper support from their homeland and host country through the comprehensive geo-economic action plan that’s being suggested in this analysis. Even if the number remains comparatively miniscule compared to other diasporas elsewhere in the world and even within Russia itself, it could still be disproportionately strategic in terms of its significance for developing the Far East, strengthening India’s presence in this corner of the Indo-Pacific, and accelerating multipolarity.
This ambitious scenario is certainly possible, especially since both countries have already displayed the requisite political will. All that’s needed is to bring together each part of the process – the Indian diaspora in Vladivostok, that country’s consulate there, a range of economic and political experts from both countries, and of course their related government departments – through an integrated platform to prioritize making progress on this as soon as possible. With the next EEF less than two months away from 5-8 September, the target can be set to have achieved something tangible by then so that participating companies at that event can consider involving themselves in this project as it evolves.
India has a distinct advantage in terms of developing the Russian Far East in that its leadership hasn’t bowed to Western pressure to condemn or sanction Russia. To the contrary, it’s doubled down on their special and privileged strategic partnership, understanding the mutual long-term benefits inherent in strengthening their ties. The alignment of their grand strategies in this respect creates the unshakeable basis for building a comprehensive geo-economic action plan for that region, which aligns with their leaders’ joint vision from 2019 that was further articulated in late 2021. There’s no better time for India to tap into this opportunity than now, and hopefully it’ll do so sooner than later.