India May Join Russian-led Customs Union


Moscow: A three-nation economic union in the Commonwealth of Independent States could be expanded with India and Russia  deciding to jointly study the possibility of India joining the grouping.

During their delegation level talks here, the two countries decided to jointly study the possibility of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with the Belarus-Kazakhstan-Russia Custom Union to take forward their earlier talks on the pact.

Visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also decided to focus on their future business relations, in addition to their robust cooperation in the defence, space and nuclear energy sectors.

At a joint press conference later, Manmohan Singh and Medvedev affirmed that economic cooperation is “the future” and that there was “huge scope” for expanding bilateral trade and investment relations and opportunities, considering that their trade level is just below $10 billion.

Medvedev, who was asked whether economic ties will henceforth be the focus, said the two sides will step up their efforts to achieve the target of $20 billion bilateral trade by 2015. “If we have said that, we mean it,” he said.

He also wanted Indian businesses to invest far more in Russia, adding that “trade and investments are two sides of the same coin”.

Endorsing the Russian president’s view, Manmohan Singh said strong defence, space, nuclear energy, and science and technology relations did exist between the two nations. “But that does not mean there is no scope to expand in trade and investments. These are going to be more important. We both agree our potential is far bigger than what we have achieved. Trade and investments are focus areas,” he added.

The joint statement that the two leaders adopted at the end of their summit meeting also noted that “the two sides decided to jointly study the possibility of a CECA between India and the Belarus-Kazakhstan-Russia Custom Union”.

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