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Xi, Putin think big on lifting Russia’s ‘far east’

September 11, 2018 10:39 pm | Updated September 12, 2018 12:25 am IST - Beijing

 Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin  in Vladivostok.

Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok.

China and Russia are signalling their intent of working together to link the Russian ‘far east’ with the Asia-Pacific as part of a larger Eurasian integration plan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived on Tuesday in Vladivostok — a coastal city in Russia’s resource-rich ‘far east’ — to discuss plans with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for developing the region.

Economic forum

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his South Korean counterpart Lee Nak-yeon have also marked their presence at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), which Mr. Putin is hosting. Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu is leading an Indian delegation to the forum. Observers say that his visit is part of a fresh round of New Delhi’s engagement with Moscow, which will culminate in October when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host Mr. Putin for the India-Russia annual summit. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is also heading for Russia for a meeting later this week of the India-Russia Inter Governmental Commission (IGC).

Putin’s regional plan

Analysts say that presence of the two leaders who have arrived from Tokyo and Seoul demonstrates the interest of key countries of the Asia-Pacific in realising Mr. Putin’s ambitious regional plan, which has China and other countries, including India, as possible partners.

The Vladivostok conclave is being held amid a massive ongoing Russia-China joint military exercise — an indication of Beijing and Moscow’s intent to deter a military strike on Eurasia’s core. The Vostok-2018 is involving a mammoth 3,00,000 troops. They will engage in tri-service mock-operations involving 1000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets and all its airborne units, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has been quoted as saying. Nearly 36,000 military vehicles are participating in the drills that are taking place at Russia’s Tsugol training range in the trans-Baikal region

About 3,200 troops, along with over 1,000 pieces of weaponry and 30 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s Northern Theater Command, are scheduled to conduct combat training together with the Russian troops from Tuesday to Thursday, the state-run China Daily earlier reported.

The newspaper added that in the strategic drills, the PLA and Russian armed forces have formed a joint operational commanding system, under which military forces from the two countries will hold joint exercises including mechanised defence, fire strike and counterattack training.

On Tuesday, Russia-China Investment Fund (RCIF) — a joint undertaking of the state-owned China Investment Corporation and Russian sovereign wealth fund — announced that a group of of Russian and Chinese businesses are considering 73 joint investment projects, with a cumulative value of more than $100 billion. CNBC reported that cooperation between China and Russia is an issue of global importance as both nations try to achieve economic stability despite the pain of U.S. penalties — sanctions against Russia and an escalating tariff war against China.

According to Russian media, Russia and China are also expected to discuss reconstruction in Syria. Russia’s Tass news agency quoted Russia’s Ambassador in China Andrei Denisov as saying on the sidelines of the EEF that Moscow and Beijing are unlikely to compete in the economic recovery of Syria.

“In fact, I would not talk about competition. There are aspects our Chinese colleagues are particularly good at, such as the construction of infrastructure facilities. This is their strong point. If they can provide effective assistance in this area, we welcome it” Mr. Denisov observed.

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