MC Exclusive | Vladivostok-Chennai route talks gather pace ahead of Modi’s Russia visit, India pushing to… – Moneycontrol

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The melting of the Arctic ice has revealed new shipping avenues along Russia’s northern coast

Discussions between the Indian and Russian governments to operationalise and develop the Chennai-Vladivostok maritime route gathered pace last week, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia on July 8 and 9,  multiple senior government officials told Moneycontrol.

“Dialogue between Russia and India has picked up pace after the Lok Sabha elections, and both governments are trying to fast track the development of the Chennai-Vladivostok route. We have spoken to multiple trading associations and shipping lines to start transportation through the Eastern Maritime Corridor (EMC),” a senior government official said.

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He added that Union Shipping Minister Sarbananda Sonowal is scheduled to visit Russia in September  to participate in the Eastern Economic Forum, before which a delegation of businessmen and government officials from Russia is expected to visit Mumbai in August.


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It is not clear whether the Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime route will be on Modi’s agenda when he visits Russia to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a statement, the Kremlin said that the two countries will discuss “prospects for further development of traditionally friendly Russia-India relations, as well as relevant issues on the international and regional agenda.”

Another government official told Moneycontrol that Anton Kobyakov, Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russian Deputy Minister for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, Anatoly Yuryevich Bobrakov, Russian Consul General Oleg Avdeev, and a business delegation from Russia are expected to visit Mumbai in August to finalise trade agreements between the two countries.

The shipping ministry is also in discussions with international shipping lines for a dedicated service between the port of Chennai and the Free Port of Vladivostok.

In January 2024, Sonowal had inaugurated the India-Russia workshop in Chennai for the operationalisation of the EMC. Sonowal had said that the EMC will be operationalised not just between Vladivostok and Chennai, but from all east coast ports of the country to the far east ports of Russia. He had added that bilateral trade between India and Russia, which was around $10 billion in FY21-22, had quadrupled and touched $44.4 billion during 2023-24.

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Russia has said it wants to double its trade with India through the port of Vladivostok, which currently stands at 150 million tonnes.

Both nations have also agreed to train Indian seafarers in navigating the polar and Arctic waters at the Russian Maritime Training Institute.

In October 2023, Sonowal told Moneycontrol that India and Russia are in advanced discussions on new transport routes, such as the Northern Sea Route and the EMC, between Vladivostok and Chennai.

Russia is keen to develop the Arctic and the North Sea route (NSR) as a year-round transport and logistics route.

The Chennai-Vladivostok route covers a distance of approximately 5,600 nautical miles, or about 10,300 km.

A large container ship travelling at the normal cruising speed of 20-25 knots, or 37-46 km / hour, should be able to cover the distance in 10-12 days.

At sub-optimal “slow steaming” speeds of 18-20 knots (33-37 km / hour), at which long-distance vessels sometimes travel to in order to save fuel, it might take slightly longer — 12-13 days.

Once operational, it will take 24 days, down from over 40 days at present, to transport goods from India to   Russia’s far east. The trade route between Mumbai and St Petersburg is about 8,675 nautical miles, which takes approximately 35 to 40 days to cover.

The corridor will not only boost trade between India and Russia through north-east Asia, but also trigger China’s security concerns in the South China Sea and cast a shadow on its grander aspirations with the Maritime Silk Route, according to the Institute for Security and Development Policy.

The NITI Aayog and the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in September 2019 to boost strategic partnership between New Delhi and Moscow. Per the MoU, both sides agreed to prepare a programme for 2020–25 to  develop the Russian far east and Arctic region.

India is also building nuclear power plants in collaboration with Russia  in Kudankulam, on the east coast in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district. The opening of a sea route is likely to help the project.

A vibrant sea route will help scale up trade relations between the two nations. It will also increase India’s presence in the Indo-Pacific, especially the South China Sea, a deeply contested patch of the ocean that Beijing considers its stomping ground.

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