Modi, Putin to discuss $40 billion India-Russia gas pipeline

Modi and Putin are going to take a macro view of the proposed gas pipeline and give their political clearance to the project. After this technical-level consultations will begin. The two sides are going to set up a task force for implementing this project.

Rajeev Sharma July 14, 2014 07:18:00 IST
Modi, Putin to discuss $40 billion India-Russia gas pipeline

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the 6th BRICS summit in Brazil on Monday. This will be Modi’s second meeting in Brazil with leader of a major power, after he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping. Modi will be meeting both these leaders for the first time.

The Modi-Putin talks are likely to cover new grounds and a new point in the Indo-Russian discourse would be a hydrocarbons pipeline from Russia to India.

Modi Putin to discuss 40 billion IndiaRussia gas pipeline

Reuters

A key Indian official privy to the talking points between Modi and Putin for their Monday meeting told this writer that the proposed pipeline may well be the mother of all bilateral cooperation projects that would inevitably give a massive boost to the Indo-Russian ties which, of late, have been rather tepid.

The hydrocarbons pipeline is likely to have a minimum price tag of $40 billion and would take four to five years for completion after the necessary modalities are completed, which itself is likely to take a considerable time.

Initially, the idea is to use the hydrocarbons pipeline for transportation of gas. Later the pipeline would be used for transporting oil too.

Modi and Putin are going to take a macro view of the proposed gas pipeline and give their political clearance to the project. After this technical-level consultations will begin. The two sides are going to set up a task force for implementing this project.

Since setting up a joint task force for such a massive project involves a lot of work and hectic consultations, this needs a bilateral visit at the highest level and obviously can’t be clinched at a pull-aside meeting on the sidelines of a multilateral summit in a third country. India and Russia are likely to announce the setting up of this joint task force when Putin travels to India later this year for a bilateral summit. This task force will be the biggest takeaway for the two sides at their forthcoming summit in New Delhi.

However, Modi may throw in a caveat to Putin in this regard. There is a strong likelihood that Modi may press for cancellation of the Russian proposal to sell MI-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan before India and Russia sign the gas pipeline deal.

This should not be a major issue for Putin and he would not be unwilling to take into account the Indian concerns and cancel the chopper deal with Pakistan. It is quite possible that Russia never wanted to go ahead with the Pakistan deal in right earnest in the first place and the Russians could have initiated this wily move only to extract something bigger from the Indians.

This is a win-win situation for both India and Russia. India needs to inject new life and blood in its relationship with Russia, the most trusted strategic partner of India for last over four decades. The pipeline diplomacy can be the best way to turn around the Indo-Russian bilateral ties particularly when Russia’s weapon exports to India are on a steady decline for last few years.

Russia has already indicated its immediate term plans to shift its focus of trade ties from Europe to Asia. From the Russian perspective, the Russian economy will receive a major boost if the Putin administration is able to set up the necessary network of oil and gas pipelines to major consumers like China and India.

Russia and China have already signed the largest deal in the world’s history – a $400 billion deal inked in May this year which entails supply of 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas annually from Russia to China for a thirty-year period.

The proposed Russia-India gas pipeline is nothing in comparison to the Russia-China deal which envisages several pipelines between Russia and China.

There were reports earlier suggesting that the Russia-China pipeline could be extended to India. But Indo-Russian political ties are so warm that they don’t need this kind of choreography. The Indo-Russian pipeline diplomacy would trigger a major reboot between the two traditional friends and strategic partners and weld their economies more cohesively for all times to come.

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