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Annual press-briefing of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Chennai

On December 27, 2019 an annual press-conference of the Russian Consular Mission was held at the Russian Cultural Centre in Chennai. Mr. O.N.Avdeev, Consul General of the Russian Federation, shared with the newsmen the information on the progress of Russian-Indian bilateral relations this year and replied to questions of Chennai based journalists.

Highlights of the address of the Consul General at the annual press-briefing

* 2019 was quite an eventful year for the whole gamut of Russian-Indian bilateral relations. The key event was the bilateral summit in the Russian city of Vladivostok last September. Russian President V.V.Putin and Prime Minister of India N.Modi took a number of initiatives which have big implications for further progress of bilateral relations and in particular for South India.

* Russia is a global energy powerhouse. Russia’s Far East region is endowed with vast natural resources like oil and gas, coal and timber. The Russian government has taken several steps that will work to the advantage of India in order to increase the viability of export of hydrocarbons. For Indian companies there exists a big opportunity to tap the region’s vast resources. New Delhi has extended a $1 billion line credit to the region primarily to help Indian businesspeople set up shop in the region, which is vitally rich in trade potential. Now India has the first mover’s advantage in the Far East.

* One of the highlights of Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Russia was the signing of MoU on re-establishing nautical communication between Vladivostok and Chennai to ensure connectivity between the two countries. It opens a new era in maritime connectivity. The initiative is important as a very substantial portion of Russian hydrocarbon exports – oil, petroleum and coal – is sent to India from the Far Eastern region of Russia. India is already a major coal importer from Russia. Indian partners own 20% in Sakhalin-1 oil project. Indian companies were invited to join other projects such as Far Eastern LNG and Arctic LNG-2. For India access to the region’s abundant natural resources is an attractive proposition. The proposed sea route will lead to increased business in Chennai Port Trust.

* The implementation of the flagship joint project – Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is going on at a steady pace. The first two units are already operational, another two are under construction and the construction of the remaining two is about to start. It is planned that the third block will be commissioned in 2023, the fourth – in 2024. The remaining two blocks №5 and №6 - in 2025 and 2026 respectively.

* The summit in Vladivostok confirmed bright prospects for cooperation between the Russian Space Corporation “Roscosmos” and the Indian Space and Research Organization including the human space flight programs, including a few critical areas of the first Indian manned mission to space – “Gaganyaan”.

*In September-October under the aegis of the Indo-Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry a group of 56 students from Vellamal Nexus and other schools of Chennai went on a familiarization trip to Russia and visited major space museums in three Russian cities as well as the Training Centre for space missions. Following the trip seven of the students decided to join the ranks of Indian space explorers.

* This year there was a significant – almost twofold – increase in the number of tourists going from South India to Russia, which is fast becoming a popular destination for Indian travellers. The system of visas on-line has been introduced this year to get visas free of charge for a weekly stay in the Russian cities of Vladivostok, Saint-Petersburg and Kaliningrad. Likewise, there are more and more tourists coming from Russia to South India for recreational purposes and for spiritual tourism.

* New variety of touristic activities was noted. A group of eight Indian enthusiasts on an anti-cancer mission started an auto ride in two cars in August from Coimbatore, crossed India, Nepal and China to enter Russia and then traversed 11 000 kilometers starting from Vladivostok, the easternmost city of Russia, to finish their trip in the city of Saint-Petersburg in the west. The team successfully completed the trip while making friends in Russia along the way.

* In the sphere of education there have been positive trends as well. The number of residents from South India going to Russia for higher studies has increased by one-third and exceeded 1200. The students of the M.G.R. Educational and Research Institute in Chennai on a regular basis go for training programs at the leading Russian Universities – the Saint-Petersburg Polytechnic and the Southern Ural University.

* The world of sports is also a sphere of activities which has bearing to South India and, in particular, Tamil Nadu. Chess players of both the countries met at different tournaments both on Indian and Russian territories. Last January five Russian chess players came to Chennai to play in the 11th Chennai Open International Grandmaster Chess tournament  2019 for Dr N.Mahalingam Trophy. Subsequently three Russian chess-masters took part in Athens of the East 1st International Grandmaster open tournament held in August in the city of Madurai. One of them – Boris Savchenko clinched the title. Five Indian players participated in Chess World cup in the city of Hanty-Mansiysk in Russia last September.

* On the cultural side in 2019 there were quite a few events which gave the Chennaiites a glimpse of Russian culture. A duo sponsored by Saint-Petersburg House of Music – a piano player and a trumpet player –gave a performance at the Russian cultural Center in Chennai last June. Apart from that a dancing troupe and a magician – all sponsored by the Indo-Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industries – demonstrated their performing skills to the Tamil Nadu public earlier this year.

* South Indian film industry has recently discovered Russia as a fairly exotic place for shooting film sequences.

Photo-presentation

Media links: "Times of India", "Decan Chronicle", "Trinity Mirror"