Indo-Russian Relations
Daily coverage of what makes ties between Delhi & Moscow ever-lasting — even in times of western sanctions.

Northern Sea Route Could be a Game-changer for Russia-India Ties

© SovcomflotSovcomflot LNG ship Christophe de Margerie and Russian icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy traverse the Northern Sea Route in February 2021, the first commercial cargo vessel to do so
Sovcomflot LNG ship Christophe de Margerie and Russian icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy traverse the Northern Sea Route in February 2021, the first commercial cargo vessel to do so - Sputnik India, 1920, 07.06.2024
Russia is actively developing the Northern Sea Route (NSR), with trade along the route projected to rise by more than four times to 150 million tonnes in the future, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday at the plenary session of St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).
The development of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) could be a game-changer in India-Russia ties and could take bilateral relations to the "next level", Indian experts have told Sputnik India.
Dr. Pravesh Kumar Gupta, an Associate Fellow at New Delhi-based think tank Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), said that the NSR presents an "unparalleled opportunity" to fortify ties between Russia and key Asian economies such as India and China.
He highlighted that there was a "drastic shift" in the geopolitical order in recent years due to the Covid-related disruptions and conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza.
Gupta said that these geopolitical events have not only caused "multiple fractures" in the global systems, but have also had "far-reaching impacts" on almost every country in the world.
Against this backdrop, Gupta suggested that the Northern Sea Route offered a "shortcut" between Europe and Asia due to the potential of reducing shipping distances and transit times, as compared to traditional routes through the Suez Canal.
"India's growing economy and expanding trade connections with Russia positions it to harness the potential of the Northern Sea Route. By leveraging this route, India can bolster its maritime trade and connectivity, ultimately reducing shipping costs and transit times for its exporters and importers, particularly in the energy and raw materials sectors. Collaborating with Russia in Arctic development also presents opportunities for Indian investment in infrastructure and resource extraction projects." the think-tanker said.
Gupta spelled out other benefits of harnessing the polar route for Indian economy, which include collaboration in energy development and resource exploitation projects.
The Arctic region holds substantial oil, gas, and minerals reserves, which can be accessed through joint ventures and partnerships between Russian and Asian companies, he said.
The VIF expert said that these factors could deepen "economic ties and mutual dependencies between Russia and India".
"Significantly, the Northern Sea Route presents an opportunity to explore an alternative to the conventional Suez Canal route, which could give India increased flexibility and risk management in its trade operations," Gupta underlined, further stressing that India should actively observe and engage in the growth of the crucial northern route.

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During his SPIEF address, Putin also highlighted that Russia’s ties with Asian economies had been strengthening and that the world’s biggest country remained a key participant in global trade despite the western sanctions.
Russia's trade levels with both India and China hit record levels last year (Russia-China trade was over $240 billion, while India-Russia trade crossed $65 billion-mark) as Moscow diverts its energy exports and geopolitical focus to Asia in the wake of Ukraine conflict.
Commodore (retired) Seshadri Vasan, the Director General of Chennai Centre for Chinese Studies (C3S) and the Regional Director of National Maritime Foundation (NMF), told Sputnik India that rapidly growing economies of India and China were looking to “diversify” their options in terms of connectivity routes and supply chains.
He highlighted that India was actively working to develop “alternative routes” such as Chennai Vladivostok Shipping Corridor and the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) in the wake of recent geopolitical disturbances.

“The importance of Russia for India’s growth aspirations has been pushed to the next level because of the geopolitical developments. Russia’s importance to India’s energy security, be it oil, gas or civil nuclear, will increase in coming years,” predicted Vasan.

He added that Russia would also continue to remain an “important source” of raw materials such as coal, and had the potential to be a source of critical minerals as well.

“As far as India is concerned, it has to take care of its long-term interests and that is why being an active partner in the Northern Sea Route is important,” remarked Vasan.

Northern Sea Route Integration with China's BRI

As far as China is concerned, VIF's Gupta reckoned that the NSR offered China a crucial strategic advantage in maintaining secure and efficient trade connections.
"The alignment of the Northern Sea Route with China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) underscores its significance as a key component of China's ambitious global infrastructure and economic development strategy. The potential for increased Chinese investment in Arctic infrastructure, including ports, terminals, and transportation networks, presents opportunities for deeper collaboration between China and Russia in unlocking the route's full potential," the Indian think-tanker said.
He also said that NSR also had the potential for enabling "enhanced transportation" of Chinese goods to European markets in the future.
However, Gupta stressed that there were "significant challenges" in realising the full potential of the Arctic route.
"Environmental concerns, including the impact of increased shipping on fragile Arctic ecosystems and the risk of oil spills, require strict regulation and an unwavering commitment to sustainable practices. Geopolitical tensions must not hinder cooperation and investment in Arctic development. Moreover, the harsh climate and limited infrastructure along the route pose formidable logistical and operational challenges that demand substantial investment and relentless technological innovation to overcome," Gupta concluded.
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