Confident of achieving the $10-billion trade target by next year, India and Russia have now set the more ambitious goal of doubling the two-way turnover to $20 billion by 2015.
Hailing the healthy growth of Indo-Russian commerce at about 30 per cent a year since 2005, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said that India and Russia had turned the challenge of the global crisis to advantage as bilateral trade continued to grow despite the 10 per cent decline world-wide.
Mr. Sharma is leading a 70-member delegation of Indian business leaders to the third Russian-Indian Forum on Trade and Investment.
According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, who opened the one-day forum here on Tuesday, Indo-Russian trade increased by 17 per cent in the first half-year and is expected to grow to $8.4 billion by the end of 2009.
“India is one of the very few countries with whom Russian trade is growing, rather than declining this year,” Mr. Zhukov said. Addressing the forum held in Moscow’s newest and choicest hotel, Ritz Carlton, Mr. Sharma warmly recalled the massive economic aid the Soviet Union extended to India in the post-independence years.
“We deeply appreciate your support and help in building the foundation of India’s public sector industry,” Mr. Sharma said. “The concept of a planned economy laid in those years is still very relevant today”.
Even though the strategic partnership pact between the two countries was signed in 2000, India and Russia have been strategic partners ever since Indian independence, he said. Despite the recent growth, Indo-Russian trade is still a fraction of the two countries’ commerce with China and many other counties.
Russian Minister of Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina lamented the fact that bilateral trade accounted for less than one per cent of either country’s foreign trade basket.
Both sides called for diversification of trade into high-tech areas, such as IT, bio- and nano-technologies and non-conventional energy.
Speaking at the forum, Vladimir Yevtushenko, whose multi-billion dollar conglomerate, the Sistema Group, forayed into the Indian mobile communications market through a tie-up with the Shyam Group, said the joint venture, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, was growing at a rate of five lakh new customers a month and looked set to become an all-India provider of 3G voice and data services next year.
“Today, we are the biggest foreign investor in India,” the Russian IT tycoon said.
Sistema Shyam has offered the Indian government to build a national crisis-management centre, set up a “safe city” programme for Delhi and plans to diversify into space communication services on the basis of the Glonass, the Russian analogue of the U.S. GPS.