The Eastern Economic Forum and India’s balancing act

Source: The post is based on the article “The Eastern Economic Forum and India’s balancing act published in The Hindu on 16th September 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India.

Relevance: About Eastern Economic Forum (EEF).

News: Recently, Russia hosted the seventh Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) Vladivostok. The Prime Minister of India has virtually addressed the Plenary Session.

What is the Eastern Economic Forum?
Read here: Eastern Economic Forum(EEF)

The primary objective of the EEF is to increase the Foreign Direct Investments in the RFE.

What is the significance of Russia’s Far East (RFE)?

The primary objective of the EEF is to increase the Foreign Direct Investments in the RFE. This is because, a) The region encompasses one-third of Russia’s territory and is rich with natural resources such as fish, oil, natural gas, wood, diamonds and other minerals, b) The region has a sparse population the EEF aims to encourage people to move and work in the Far East. Despite the abundance and availability of materials, procuring and supplying them is an issue due to the unavailability of personnel, c) RFE is geographically placed at a strategic location. The region is acting as a gateway into Asia. The Russian government has strategically developed the region with fast modernisation of cities that aims of connecting Russia to the Asian trading routes.

Who are the major actors in the Forum? What are their interests?

This year, the Forum aimed at connecting the Far East with the Asia Pacific region.

China: China is promoting the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and the Polar Sea Route in Russia’s Far East (RFE). China’s investments in the region account for 90% of the total investments. China is also looking to develop its Heilongjiang province which connects with the RFE.

Russia and China: Russia has been welcoming Chinese investments since 2015. The Trans-Siberian Railway has further helped Russia and China in advancing trade ties.

Both Russia and China share a 4000-kilometre-long border, which enables them to tap into each other’s resources with some infrastructural assistance.

South Korea: South Korea has invested in shipbuilding projects, manufacturing of electrical equipment, gas-liquefying plants, agricultural production and fisheries. In 2017, Korea along with the Far East Development Fund announced their intention to inject $2 billion into the RFE in a span of three years.

Japan: Japan identified eight areas of economic cooperation and pushed private businesses to invest in the development of the RFE. Japan seeks to depend on Russian oil and gas resources. Japan also sees a market for its agro-technologies which have the potential to flourish in the RFE.

The trade ties between Japan and Russia are hindered by the Kuril Islands dispute as they are claimed by both countries.

India: India is keen to deepen its cooperation in energy, pharmaceuticals, maritime connectivity, healthcare, tourism, the diamond industry and the Arctic. In 2019, India also offered a $1 billion line of credit to develop infrastructure in the RFE. Through the EEF, India aims to establish a strong inter-state interaction with Russia.

Read more: Explained: Why the Eastern Economic Forum matters for India
What is Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF)?
Read here: IPEF: Indo-Pacific Economic Framework – Explained, pointwise

The IPEF also presents an ideal opportunity for India to act in the region, without being part of the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or other regional groupings like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Can India balance between the EEF and the IPEF?

India has vested interests in both forums and has worked towards balancing its involvement. India understands the benefits of being involved in the development of the RFE but India also perceives the IPEF as a vital platform to strengthen its presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

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