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India-Russia Partnership Extends Beyond Any Specific Event: IBA President

© Sputnik / Mikhail MetzelIndia's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin (File)
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin (File) - Sputnik India, 1920, 31.08.2023
B-20 was established in 2010 and is among the most prominent Engagement Groups for G20's countries' companies and business organizations.
The B-20 Summit, the official G20 dialogue forum with the global business community, has started in New Delhi on Friday. The theme of the three-day summit is Responsible, Accelerated, Innovative, Sustainable, Equitable (R.A.I.S.E) Businesses.
For three days, members of the global business community will discuss the summit's theme while India will showcase its growth story of the Global CEOs.
The Indian Business Alliance (IBA), an umbrella organization for all Indian companies in Russia, is also participating in the summit. In an interview with Sputnik India, IBA president Sammy Kotwani shared his views about the India-Russia business partnership, the challenges in trade due to currency restrictions and the possible solution for currency restrictions.
Sputnik India: You are the president of the Indian Business Alliance. How has the business partnership between India and Russia grown over the years?
Kotwani: The business partnership between India and Russia has witnessed very significant growth over the years. Both countries have established strong economic ties, collaborated across many sectors and steadily increased trade volumes. They have fulfilled the goal of $30 billion in trade much earlier than 2025.
This has happened because the governments of both countries have taken initiatives to enhance bilateral trade and investment relations.
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Sputnik India: What are the prominent business partnership sectors in which both countries have been involved in, and what are the new sectors that have come up in recent years?
Kotwani: India and Russia have been strategic partners in terms of defense, military cooperation, information technology, heavy machinery, engineering and agriculture.
Apart from this, both countries have been involved in business of oil, coal, energy and fertilizers. However, in recent years, there has been a focus on sectors like aerospace, nuclear energy, science, technology, digital innovation and healthcare.
Sputnik India: Do you think that Russia sees India as one of its major trade partners since its military operation in Ukraine?
Kotwani: See, let’s be very honest, the military operation has nothing to do with economics. Politics has its own place while economics has its own. The economic partnership between the two countries extends beyond any specific event. India and Russia have always been good friends and well known to each other for a long time. So, it is not that Russia looks at India as its major trade partner after its military operation.
However, having stayed in Russia for past 32 years my observation is that Russia always feels more confidence while working with India than any other country.

Russians always look forward towards India for business and trade as they see huge potential because India’s economic growth is on the next level. It is a very big market with easy access for the Russians.

This becomes evident when looking at the increasing trade volume. Therefore, I can say that the business partnership between the two countries is shaped up by long-standing steady ties and mutual business interests.
Sputnik India: Currency restrictions have been a major challenge for trade between the two countries. What possible solution do you see and when will this challenge can be addressed?
Kotwani: I agree that currency restrictions have posed a major challenge in trade between India and Russia. However, both countries have taken steps to address the challenge through currency swap agreements, enhancing bilateral trading in local currency and exploring payment mechanisms that are not only dependent on US dollars.
All these measures reduce reliance on foreign currency and facilitate smoother trade and transition; however, the major challenge which has to be addressed is to streamline the Indian banking system.
There is a serious lack of standard operating procedure in Indian banks. I am saying this because it happens in India that one branch of a bank is performing an operation while the other branch is not. They cite the example of Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank, which has been blacklisted. But the Indian banks have to understand that it has been blacklisted by the US for the US dollars.
So, how does the blacklisting of Sberbank for US dollars impact trade between these two countries? I think Indian banks have been harassing their customers and I even got to know that they have asked people to open accounts in their bank if they want to conduct payments in rupees.
It is important to understand that India's currency is not a convertible currency like the Russian Ruble is. Therefore, India’s Finance Minister has to come up with some idea to facilitate trade in an easier way. Еhe best opportunity is to trade in Indian Rupees and such opportunities don’t present themselves often.
Sputnik India: Now, in reference to BRICS participation in business forum this week, Indian Prime Minister Modi said that the UPI payment system can be used in the BRICS countries, how can it help facilitate trade between Russia and India?
Kotwani: This is exactly what I was saying, both countries need to use their currencies for trade, and it is good to hear about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suggestion about using UPI payment systems in BRICS countries.
If this is implemented among the BRICS countries, it will simplify and streamline payment processes, enhance financial inclusion, and boost digital trade and transactions between India and Russia. However, in order to implement this, the central banks of both countries will have to work together because every country would love to trade in its own currency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin - Sputnik India, 1920, 25.08.2023
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