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India conspicuous by absence at Russian economic forum

St Petersburg, June 20  India was conspicuous by its absence because of a lack of high-level representation at SPIEF 2015 where Russia laid out special welcome to China and Greece.

It’s not as if India did not send a high-level delegation. The 20-member CII business team to St Petersburg International Economic Form (SPIEF 2015) was led by the Minister of State (independent charge) for Industry and Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman.

But the minister chose not to attend the morning roundtable where she was expected on Thursday, because of protocol reasons, when her Russian counterpart could not attend. A Russian deputy minister, though, did attend and spoke warmly about India.

Later, Sitharaman also did not turn up for the reception given by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) for the delegates and local business people on Thursday evening, although embassy and consulate officials were there expecting her to come.

She flew out the next day, without attending the plenary on Friday where President Vladimir Putin gave special attention to China, calling their relationship as having reached an “unprecedented level”.

Greece was invited to speak soon after Putin and its Prime Minister Alexis Tsipiras said that he was in St Petersburg instead of negotiating with officials in Brussels to avoid an economic crisis back home because he thought the relationship with Russia was extremely important.

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, also a member of Politburo Standing Committee, who also spoke at length talked about the emerging relationship with Russia which was strengthening day by day.

It was not clear why the Indian minister came all the way to St Petersburg to attend only a minor afternoon session on Thursday, leaving the important interactions to junior embassy officials. Indian ambassador P.S. Raghavan also returned to Moscow on Friday, possibly because protocol required that he go back with the minister of commerce.

(Hardev Sanotra is in Russia at the invitation of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum 2015. He can be contacted at [email protected])