Moscow seeks more trade with Modi’s home state

Russia’s envoy has held talks with the chief of Gujarat, which contains India’s largest refineries and will host a financial hub

Russian Ambassador to India Denis Alipov discussed strengthening cooperation with India’s western state of Gujarat on a visit to the state capital, Gandhinagar, on Monday. According to the Russian embassy in New Delhi, Alipov held talks with the state’s chief minister Bhupendra Patel.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Patel noted that Gujarat plays an important role in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project, given the state’s 1600-kilometer-long coastline and maritime transportation capacity. INSTC is an developing transportation route driven by India and Russia, along with Iran and other countries in Central Asia, to enable faster movement of goods and cargo.

Patel highlighted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2003 visit to Astrakhan, a southern port city in Russia, which initiated some strategic partnerships. The city — which is located at the intersection of Iran, Russia, and Central Asia — holds the key to the smooth functioning of the INSTC corridor and is considered a historical gateway for Indian goods to Russia and Central Asia.

Patel emphasized the opportunity for Russian institutions to set up an educational research institute in GIFT City (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City), which is being promoted by the Indian government as Asia’s newest financial hub.

The GIFT City, which is being built in the Gandhinagar district in eastern Gujarat, is considered New Delhi’s answer to Singapore and Mauritius as a hub of global start-ups and investments and is one of Modi’s flagship projects. Modi, who hails from the state, was also the longest serving chief minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014, before becoming the country’s prime minister.

On Monday, the Economic Times reported that at least three Russian entities have applied for different licenses with GIFT City authorities. The New Development Bank (NDB) of the BRICS countries is also slated to open its Indian branch in GIFT city, the newspaper reported in May.

Gujarat has been one of the key destinations for Russian investment for over a decade. India’s first large-scale butyl rubber facility was set up in Jamnagar, on the coast of Gujarat, by a joint venture between India’s largest conglomerate Reliance and Russia’s integrated petrochemicals company Sibur.

Russia’s Rosneft is the largest shareholder of Nayara Energy, one of India’s largest refineries located in Gujarat. Nayara, formerly known as Essa Oil, was acquired by the Rosneft-led consortium in 2017 for nearly $13 billion, becoming Moscow’s largest investment in the Southeast Asian nation’s economy, and overall India’s largest single foreign direct investment.