Anand Sharma invites Russian firms to take part in Delhi-Mumbai corridor

India is looking to a quantum jump in bilateral investments , as it embarks on talks with Russia to promote free trade and seek Russian participation in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, a mega infrastructure project.

“I can foresee a manifold jump in investments of Russian and Indian companies in each other’s economies, given the measures we’ve taken and the kind of intensification of our cooperation in recent years,” Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma told reporters here after holding talks with Russian officials on Saturday.

The India-Russia trade grew by 25 per cent last year to cross the $11-billion mark, and was well on the way to reach the $20-billion target by 2015, he said. “If we continue with the 25 per cent growth, we’ll definitely meet the target.”

Mr. Sharma held far-ranging talks with President Vladimir Putin’s economic adviser Ilvira Nabiulina, who takes over as head of Russia’s Central Bank in June; Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov; and Economic Development Minister Andrei Belousov.

These officials had just returned from the Far East where they accompanied Mr. Putin, and despite an 8,000-km tiring flight back and it being a Saturday, they agreed to meet Mr. Sharma, who squeezed in a short trip to Moscow in between an India-German summit in Berlin and free trade talks with the European Union in Brussels.

Mr. Sharma said he invited Russian companies to take part in the setting up of “at least one” world-class industrial enclave under the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. When the Commerce Minister visits Russia next time in June to attend the annual St. Petersburg Economic Forum, he will bring along senior officials to make a presentation on the project for potential Russian investors.

The St. Petersburg Economic Forum will also provide an opportunity for the first ministerial-level meeting to discuss a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) between India and the Customs Union, which comprises Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

“We are keen on expediting CECA talks with the Customs Union,” Mr Sharma said. “The agreement will cover trade, services and investment, and India will be one of the first countries to sign such a pact with the Russia-led union.”

Mr. Sharma’s talks also covered stepped up cooperation in hydrocarbons, fertilizers, diamonds and other areas. He said the sides identified five priority projects in hydrocarbons with Russia’s Gazprom, Rosneft and Novatek in the Far East, the Urals and the Arctic, including offshore fields.

India was seeking to import more Russian fertilizers under long-term arrangements. “We are ready to invest in Russian fertilizer industry by taking equity and to set up joint ventures to produce phosphorus fertilizers in India,” he said.

India is keen on gaining a foothold in the Russian diamond industry. In recent years, it has emerged as the biggest consumer of Russian rough diamonds, accounting for about a half of Alrosa’s annual production in terms of weight. “I have proposed… that we take equity in Alrosa,” Mr. Sharma said. Alrosa is Russia’s state-owned diamond mining monopoly, which the government plans to privatise completely by 2016.

Mr. Sharma also discussed plans to set up a titanium joint venture with Russia in Odisha. An earlier India-Russian project in that State fell apart over a land ownership dispute. This time, “land will be made available for the project as identified and requested by the Russian partner.”