Event ReportsPublished on Nov 09, 2013
Russia is considering supplying Hydrocarbons to India through pipelines and both countries have commissioned joint study groups to analyse the feasibility of the project.
PM's visit to Russia and China: A journalist's report card
Russia is considering supplying Hydrocarbons to India through pipelines and both countries have commissioned joint study groups to analyse the feasibility of the project.

This was stated by Ms Nirupama Subramanian, Associate Editor of The Hindu, during a discussion on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Russia and China at the Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation on 9 November 2013. Ms Subramanian was part of the media team which accompanied the Prime Minister during these visits.

Ms Subramanian said Russia is also willing to pursue explorations in the Siberian region where untapped oil and gas reserves were located. However, many experts believed it may not be economically feasible since the average cost per barrel could go up to $200.

Ms Subramanian pointed out that India and China were the two biggest markets for Russia. She said Moscow was now concerned about the US decision to export shale gas to other countries. Apart from this, Russian oil reserve is expected to go down to 400 million tonnes by 2030.

On the Russia-aided Kudamkulam nuclear power plant in southern Tamil Nadu, Ms Subramanian said there were conflicting reports on the commissioning of the third and fourth units. The Indian side was quite optimistic about it whereas sources in Russia were not, she pointed out.

The main apprehension for the Russians, she said, related to the Nuclear Liability Bill, passed by the Indian Parliament.

Intervening during the discussion, Russia's Consul-General Nikolay A Listopadov, however, said that Russia considered Tamil Nadu to be an integral part of Indo-Russian co-operation and added that the commissioning of third and fourth plants would happen eventually. The Prime Minister's visit was a routine summit that takes place every year with the venues alternating between Moscow and New Delhi, he added.

Ms Subramanian claimed that India and Russia shared a strong sentiment against terrorism, which according to her was unprecedented. A part of the joint statement said that "States abetting terrorism are equally guilty as the terrorists", she recalled. Ironically, the statement came a few hours after a terrorist attack in Russia. She expressed the view that the joint statement referred possibly to the 2008 Mumbai terror-attacks. She stated that the Indian side had emphasised greatly on Russia's efforts to keep the Syrian issue to the level of diplomatic dialogue, thus averting a potentially devastating war.

Consul-General Nikolay expressed the hope that there would be a "breakthrough in Indo-Russian relationship". He also pointed out that the summit in Moscow had been truthful. However, he stressed on the need to improve people-to-people contact and also encourage more students from India to pursue education in Russia. Currently, he claimed, there are about 10,000 Indian students in Russia, which is merely 10% of the number of Indian students in the US.

The Consul-General said that no other country apart from Russia considered providing nuclear submarines to India. The diplomat also clarified the issue regarding Systema-Shyam and the cancelled spectrum licenses. Though there was reluctance on the part of the Russian firm, they were committed to doing business in India.

'Shades of grey' on China front

Speaking from the perspective of a journalist, Ms Subramanian said the crux of the entire trip was all about China and the media as well as bureaucrats could feel the tension rising up as the Prime Minister's entourage proceeded to Beijing from Moscow. She described this relationship to be complex, based on several issues, but also emphasized on the point stressed by officials that just one or two issues must not be brought to the forefront. She said it was more of a challenge.

She said since the relationship between India and China is complex, it must be looked in "shades of grey". Several extensions of existing agreements were made to ensure neither side claims "unilateral superiority" over the other. The border issue, according to her, is not a persistent one and there has not been a single death in the border in several years. According to one of them, the soldiers on both sides along the borders, in order to build up a good relationship, are even allowed to have 'non-contact sports' played between them.

One other important issue that came up in the discussion was about stapled visas. Ms Subramanian said it was a non-issue and "we must be happy that the Chinese are even granting visas to the people from Arunachal Pradesh", instead of making claims over the State. She added that stapled visas have been issued by Chinese officials only in the past five years. She pointed out that China, which had a similar practice for people from along the India's LoC with Pakistan, has now refrained from such practices. She, however, pointed out that the problem is that Indian laws refuse permitting its citizens with stapled visas.

There has also been intense lobbying on behalf of the corporate sector to ease business visa norms which also seemed to have figured in the talks. Both sides want tourist visas to be more liberalised, since more number of Indian tourists visit China and vice-versa.

Ms Subramanian said many plans of mutual development were also discussed during the Prime Minister's visit. Some of them were co-operation between Indian and Chinese railways, improvement of railway stations, setting up an SEZ (Special Economic Zone) and also power servicing centres. SEZ by Chinese firm, she said, would help in getting Chinese products within our country which would reduce import costs and reduce the trade deficit for India.

Though there was no clarity as yet about the implementation, she said such a scheme might also provide employment to Indian workforce. The power- servicing centres are to be set up as power-generating equipment from China are extensively used in India. Without indigenous servicing solutions, it requires the engineers to be flown all the way from China. The Indian side has also invited Chinese officials to inspect two railway stations in order to modernise them. However, the co-operation between the two Railways has now gotten into a bureaucratic cobweb as railways, which was previously a separate ministry, now has been reduced to a department in China.

During the visit, the two sides signed agreements for China helping India in road projects, especially the trans-national roadways connecting Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar.

Ms Subramanian said India was catching up with China in rapid urbanisation, which now stood at 36 percent against 52. Predictions are that India would achieve 51 percent urbanisation in the foreseeable future.

(This report is prepared by Ramalingam Va, II Year, B.A., (Journalism & Mass Communication), S R M University, Chennai)

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