India overplays hand in Russia

Vladivostok: On Thursday, India announced an "unprecedented" USD 1 billion line of credit for Russia’s resource-rich Far East with Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowing to support President Vladimir Putin's "stupendous efforts" to develop the extremely inhospitable region.

The announcement had many Indians scratching their heads. Because just ten days back the Modi government was dipping into the RBI coffers to bail out the country’s economy which is crawling at a 5% growth rate.

Addressing the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum, PM Modi, who was also the chief guest, said it was a "unique case" of India providing such special credit line to a region in another country.

That in turn had many wondering whether the largesse was just a political quid pro quo for the support that President Putin has purportedly extended on Kashmir.

PM Modi, of course, described it as economic diplomacy and said his government was engaging nations in East Asia under India's new "Act East" policy.

But many on Twitter were aghast at the largesse and pointed out that the bizarre line of credit of $1 billion was more than the amount the government will be spending on bank recapitalization -- Rs 55000 crores.

It was further pointed out that it was more important for India to signal how big it is on the world stage rather than fix the broken economy.

Still others on twitter dwelt on the incongruity of it all – the fact that Russia's per capita GDP is 10,743 US$ while India's is only 1,939 US$! One sceptic pointed out that the favour to the Russian federation was to square up for buying its silence on the Kashmir issue.

There was also a sentiment that had India extended a similar facility to Bangladesh, Nepal or Bhutan, it would not have raised eyebrows.

The sarcasm was more than apparent when a detractor remarked in zest: Oh! So this is where the collections from traffic challan will be spent. Waah Modiji Waah!

PM Modi, however, sees the line of credit as a "launch pad" in the region which is blessed with oil, gas and other minerals and where India is "very active".

Modi also said the friendship between India and Russia was not restricted to governmental interactions, but was about people and close business relations. Only time will tell.

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