India, Russia to unveil 5-year roadmap on hydrocarbon cooperation
A five-year roadmap on hydrocarbon cooperation and new Indian investments in Russian oilfields are expected to be announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Vladivostok this week, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said on Monday.
PM Modi will travel to the Far Eastern port city during September 4-5 to participate as the chief guest in the Eastern Economic Forum and hold an annual summit with President Vladimir Putin. With India intent on not depending on any country or region for its energy security, oil and gas exploration will be a key part of the bilateral discussions.
The roadmap on hydrocarbon cooperation will lay out possibilities for working together in oil and gas, “both in terms of exploration and exploitation and in terms of purchase (during) 2019-24 as we seek to diversify our oil and gas supplies beyond complete dependence on the Gulf,” Gokhale said.
Indian state-run energy firms are expected to announce new investments in Russian oilfield clusters and a “concrete” proposal on import of LNG is likely to be unveiled either during or after Modi’s visit, he said. Coal India and Steel Authority of India are expected to announce arrangements with their Russian counterparts and there will be discussions on opening a sea route between Chennai and Vladivostok.
The push for greater cooperation in energy dovetails with Modi’s desire to broaden the bilateral relationship beyond civil nuclear and defence cooperation, Gokhale said.
Russia continues to provide more than 60% of India’s military hardware and is building six nuclear reactors for a power plant at Kudankulam. Russia is also in talks to build another six reactors at an as-yet unspecified location.
Gokhale, however, said no announcements on specific defence agreements are expected during Modi’s visit.
Modi will hold one-on-one and delegation-level talks with Putin after his arrival in Vladivostok on Wednesday. The two leaders will also visit a shipbuilding yard that makes icebreakers and oil tankers. On Thursday, Modi is expected to hold bilateral meetings with leaders of other countries, such as Mongolia, Japan and Malaysia, which are attending the Eastern Economic Forum.
Besides Modi’s address to the forum, there will also be an India-Russia business dialogue for which FICCI is sending a 50-member delegation. Gokhale said, adding India is focusing on farming and export of skilled manpower to Russia’s sparsely populated Far Eastern region. However, this will require the signing of a labour agreement with Russia to facilitate the mobility of Indian workers.
The Far Eastern region is also geo-politically important for India in the context of the Indo-Pacific, plans to open the Arctic or Northern Sea route to Europe and exploration of oil and gas reserves in the Arctic, he said.
Gokhale also described Russia as a “natural partner” for India’s Gaganyaan mission, which plans to put a manned spacecraft in low earth orbit by December 2021.
Responding to questions on cooperating with Russia on the situation in Afghanistan, Gokhale said both countries wanted the discussions between the US and Taliban to lead to a “stable political situation where there is political order and a guarantee the peace agreement will hold”. The post-settlement situation should have constitutional legitimacy, stability and “not leave ungoverned spaces for terrorists or their proxies”, he said.