By: Chandrashekar Bhat
PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (21) said Russia is developing a North-South Transport Corridor, which will open up new routes for business cooperation with India, Iran and Pakistan, as well as west Asian countries.
Putin also said Russia will expand its international economic connections, as well as build new supply corridors, in view of the crippling sanctions imposed by the West for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine nearly one year ago.
“We will develop the ports of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, we will particularly focus on the North-South International Corridor,” Putin said in his one hour and 45 minutes State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly.
“We will continue developing this corridor,” Putin was quoted as saying by the state-run Tass news agency, noting that it will open up new routes for business cooperation with India, Iran, Pakistan as well as West Asian countries.
The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode transport project to move freight to India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
Russia, India and Iran first signed the agreement for the INSTC whose aim is to to reduce the time taken for shipments to reach Russia and Europe, and enter central Asian markets.
Putin said a decision has been taken to extend the Moscow-Kazan highway to Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk and Tyumen, and in the future, to Irkutsk and Vladivostok, and potentially to Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China, which will expand Russia’s economic ties with the markets of Southeast Asia.
During a visit to Yerevan in Armenia in October 2021, India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar proposed that the strategic Chabahar Port in Iran be included in the North-South Transport Corridor.
The Chabahar port in the Sistan-Balochistan province in the energy-rich nation’s southern coast is easily accessible from India’s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port located at a distance of around 80 km from Chabahar.
The first phase of the Chabahar port was inaugurated in December 2017 by then Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, opening a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.
The Chabahar port is being considered a gateway for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with Central Asian countries, besides ramping up trade among the three countries in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi.
“The point of our work is not to adapt to current conditions, but to bring our economy to new frontiers,” Putin said during his state of the nation address.
“It is a time not only of challenges, but of opportunities,” he added, welcoming what he called the growing “independence” of Moscow’s economy from foreign markets.
Russia’s GDP contracted by 2.1 per cent in 2022 according to figures released by state agency Rosstat on Monday (20).
“The Russian economy and management system turned out to be much stronger than the West believed,” Putin said.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Chinese leader Xi Jinping is preparing to visit Moscow for a summit with Putin in the coming months.
Xi’s meeting with Putin will be part of a push for multi-party talks on peace in Ukraine and allow China to reiterate its calls that nuclear weapons not be used, the report added.
Preparations for the trip are at an early stage and the timing has not been finalised, the WSJ said, adding that Xi could visit in April or in early May, when Russia celebrates its World War Two victory over Germany.
China’s top diplomat Wang Yi arrived in Moscow on Tuesday as the country appears to be ramping up its diplomatic effort to push for a peace settlement in Ukraine.
Wang will likely discuss Xi’s trip while he is in Moscow, WSJ said, quoting people familiar with the summit planning.