Cites oil and gas investment in Vietnam as area of cooperation

India wants Russia to be more involved in the Indo-Pacific and Moscow should look to its own interests in the region and that will create a mutual basis for cooperation and dialogue, said Indian envoy to Russia DB Venkatesh Varma on Wednesday while referring to Indian and Russian investments in Vietnam’s oil and gas sector as one of the areas of cooperation.

“We see Russia as a very important Pacific power... Just like Russia has an interest in the Indian Ocean, we have an interest in the Pacific Ocean. I think the connectivity that we are looking at, we are looking at Indo-Pacific as a geographic continuum for cooperation and for certain principles that we want this region to be free and fair for everyone,” Mr. Varma said in response to a question from The Hindu.

He was speaking at a webinar, jointly organised by the Russian International Affairs Council and the Indian Council of World Affairs.

Referring to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statements on Indo-Pacific on several occasions that Russia does not want to create new divisions especially with respect to containment of China, Mr. Varma said India saw this in a slightly different light. India did not see it as containment or non-containment but as a positive construct that brought together countries and people on the basis of certain principles. “If India were to say that no country in the region should look for unilateral advantage at the cost of international rules and law, I am sure Russia will agree,” he said.

In this direction, he referred to investments by both India and Russia in the oil and gas sector of Vietnam. If there was a challenge to well established principles of international law, norms and contracts, Indian interests were as much effected as much as Russian interests. “This is an area we need to work together. There is already a lot of common ground.”

Stand-offs In SCS

A stable Indo-Pacific assumes particular importance for Russia too with the proposed energy bridge from Arctic to Vladivostok to Chennai. There have been stand-offs between China and Vietnam in the South China Sea due to overlapping claims close to the Indian oil blocks in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Mr. Varma said both India and Russia saw ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) centrality as critical to the Indo-Pacific concept. There was a perception that India and Russia dealt with Indo-Pacific as different concepts but “the differences are quite exaggerated.” The commonalities far outweighed the differences.

Mr. Varma said Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit India later this year coinciding with the 20th year of India-Russia strategic partnership.

Mr. Putin has visited India eight times on bilateral visits so far and since 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr. Putin met 22 times on various occasions.