A gas pipeline from Russia to India and reviving the South Silk Road from China are two projects that will get their first official sanction during Prime Manmohan Singh’s visit to the two countries next week, with New Delhi agreeing to set up joint study groups for both.
India is also keen on Russia adopting a township along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor just like the USSR had done with steel townships Bhilai and Bokaro.
With China, an agreement is also expected to be signed on twinning three pairs of cities for city-to-city collaboration — Delhi-Beijing, Bangalore-Chengdu, and Kolkata-Kunming.
On transport, an understanding is likely between the railways on both sides, where China will help increase the speeds of some trains to about 200 kmph.
Further, the two countries will also firm up an agreement on setting up service centres for Chinese power equipment. While this faced resistance from domestic manufacturers, the agreement went through as currently power-producing equipment worth 43,000 MW is operational in India and is expected to go up to 61,000 MW in five years.
On the pipeline and the Southern Silk Road, India wants to explore all avenues of improving linkages and to create, in the process, more stakeholders, be it Afghanistan and Pakistan or Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Both projects would run through troubled and politically unstable areas, but sources said the fast rate of progress on the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline is a good example to follow.
The idea is to have a direct pipeline from Russia to India run parallel to TAPI from a junction point and build in similar economic advantages for countries through which the pipeline would pass.
While there is reasoned scepticism in South Block on the fate of this idea, sources said the broader economic logic and immense benefits to energy-starved India is what makes it worth exploring at this juncture.
Similarly, the other big idea that was floated by new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his first visit to India, was the Southern Silk Road connecting Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar, also called BCIM corridor.
The establishment of a joint study group will look to explore extending road linkages between China and Myanmar to form an economic corridor that will benefit China’s Yunnan province, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India’s Northeast region.
However, the obstacles are considerable starting with Myanmar’s immediate concern with Bangladesh over fleeing Rohingya refugees.