Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the India-Russia friendship has stood the test of time and asserted that the two countries together can help bring stability to the global energy market.
In his virtual address at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) being held in the Russian city of Vladivostok, Modi noted the "robust" cooperation between the two countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, including in the vaccination programme.
Lauding President Vladimir Putin's vision for the development of the Russian Far East, he said India will be a reliable partner for Russia in realising the vision.
Noting that India has a talented and dedicated workforce while the Far East is rich in resources, the prime minister said there is tremendous scope for Indian talent to contribute to the development of the Russian Far East.
He recalled his 2019 visit to Vladivostok to attend the forum and the then announcement of India's commitment to an "Act Far East policy".
The policy is an important part of India's "special and privileged strategic partnership" with Russia, Modi said.
"President Putin, I remember our detailed conversation during the boat ride from Vladivostok to Zvezda during my visit in 2019. You had shown me the modern ship-building facility at Zvezda and had expressed the hope that India would participate in this great enterprise. Today, I am delighted that one of India's biggest shipyards, Mazagon Docks Limited, will partner with Zvezda for the construction of some of the most important commercial ships in the world," he said.
India and Russia are partners in space exploration through the Gaganyaan programme and the two countries will also be partners in the opening of the Northern Sea Route for international trade and commerce, the prime minister noted.
Underlining that the friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time, he said most recently, this was manifested in the robust cooperation between the two countries during the Covid pandemic, including in the area of vaccines.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the health and pharma sectors in the bilateral cooperation, Modi noted.
"Energy is another major pillar of our strategic partnership. The India-Russia energy partnership can help bring stability to the global energy market," he said.
Indian workers are participating in major gas projects in the Amur region, from Yamal to Vladivostok, and onward to Chennai, the prime minister said.
"We envisage an energy and trade bridge. I am happy that the Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor is making headway. This connectivity project, along with the International North-South Corridor, will bring India and Russia physically closer to each other," he added.
Despite the pandemic-related restrictions, the progress has been good in strengthening the India-Russia business links in many areas, the prime minister said, adding that this includes the long-term supply of coking coal to the Indian steel industry.
"We are also exploring new opportunities in the agro industry, ceramics, strategic and rare earth minerals and diamonds. I am happy that diamond representatives from Sakha-Yakutia and Gujarat are having a separate interaction as a part of this forum," he said, expressing confidence that the USD 1 billion soft credit line announced in 2019 will create many business opportunities between the two countries.
Pointing out that in Indian history and civilisation, the word "sangam" has a special meaning, Modi said it means a confluence or coming together of rivers, people or ideas and Vladivostok is truly a "sangam" of Eurasia and Pacific.
He said it is also useful to bring together the most important stakeholder regions of the Russian Far East and the relevant states in India on the same platform.
"We should take forward the useful discussions that took place during the visit of the chief ministers of key Indian states in 2019. I would like to extend an invitation for the governors of 11 regions of the Russian Far East to visit India at the earliest," Modi said.
Despite the challenges of the Covid pandemic, an Indian delegation led by Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri, comprising representatives from the country's leading oil and gas companies, is attending the India-Russia Business Dialogue within the framework of the EEF, a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said.
An online meeting between Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and the governor of Sakha-Yakutia province in Russia was held on Thursday on the sidelines of the EEF, it added.