By Sawraj Singh
Vladivostok is located in the Far East of Russia. It was a part of China till 1860 when in the treaty of Beijing it was ceded to Russia. In 1916 it got connected with Moscow and Europe by the Trans Siberian Railway. In this historic city where east meets west, Modi and Putin met for the Fifth Eastern Economic Forum and took a giant toward a multipolar world. This is consistent with India's policy "Look East". Actually India is going a step beyond this policy to "Act East". Both India and Russia have realized they have to revive their traditional friendship in the light of the new developments in the region and in the world.
In the region and in the worldб America and China seem to have become the major rivals. American policy seems to be trying to contain and isolate China. The Asia-Pacific region seems to have become the main area of this rivalry. Many countries in the region feel uncomfortable in taking sides in this rivalry. Russia and India are providing a rallying point for these countries. In doing so they are also creating a new center of power thereby converting a bipolar world to a multipolar world. With the collapse of the Soviet Union the world had become a unipolar world with America as the only super power in the world.
With the emergence of China as a powerful country there seemed to be a tendency toward a bipolar world. Instead of a cold war between America and the Soviet Union we started seeing a trade war between America and China. However, many countries in the region and in the world do not want a bipolar world where the world is divided in to two camps. They want multiple centers of power to emerge where the countries have more freedom to join the countries with the identical interests. Russia and India are providing that opportunity to the countries in the region.
The Russian policy seems to be a twofold policy. At the global level it feels that it needs a strong relation with China to counter the unbalanced American power. Similarly, for the overall economic development it also needs China. China is now the largest trading partner of Russia and China has invested heavily in the development particularly, of Siberian region. However, in the Far-East, because of the historic and geographic reasons Russia wants India to be the major country involved in the development. This region used to be a part of China and is also so close to China. Therefore, Russia seems to be a little hesitant in involving China in the region. India seems to be a better choice in that regard.
25 agreements were signed during the 20th India-Russia summit which was also held there. These included space, energy, trade, education, culture, connectivity, corridors etc. A sea link connecting Chennai with Vladivostok passing through the Malacca Strait and the South China Sea will be established. It will significantly cut the travelling time between the two countries. About 60% of India's military inventory is of the Russian origin. Many of these will be built in India not only for the domestic use but also for export to the other countries. Modi also announced a credit line of 1 billion dollars for the development of the area.
In many ways Russian and Indian economies are complementary to each other. Russia is a very large country with vast natural resources. However, it is sparsely populated. India on the other hand is a very densely populated with a very large educated and well qualified work force. Moreover, India can also afford to invest some capital for the development. All these factors make India a very suitable country to participate in the development of the Russian Far East region.
Both Russia and India have realized that they have to revive and strengthen their traditional friendship. Both have also realized that their fundamental interests are best served in a multipolar world. India's Look East and Act East policies as well as its revival and strengthening of the traditional friendship with Russia have given a big impetus to a new multipolar world order.
Chairman Washington State Network for Human Rights
Chairman Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice