The Eastern Economic Forum and India’s balancing act


Russia hosted the seventh Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) Vladivostok in first week of September, 2022. The forum is a platform for entrepreneurs to expand their businesses into Russia’s Far East (RFE).

Russian Far East (RFE) is a region in Northeast Asia. It is the easternmost part of Russia and the Asian continent; and is administered as part of the Far Eastern Federal District, which is located between Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia and the Pacific Ocean.RFE borders two oceans, the Pacific and the Arctic, and five countries (China, Japan, Mongolia, the United States and the DPRK).The Far Eastern Federal District covers more than a third of the country’s territory.It is rich in natural resources like diamonds, stannary, borax materials, 50 gold, tungsten, and fish and seafood. About 1/3 of all coal reserves and hydro-engineering resources of the country are here.Forests of the region comprise about 30% of the total forest area of Russia.

What is the Eastern Economic Forum?

  1. The EEF seeks to encourage foreign investments in the RFE. The EEF displays the economic potential, suitable business conditions and investment opportunities in the region.
  2. EEF is an international forum organised each year in Vladivostok, Russia.
  3. It was first held in September 2015, at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, to support the economic development of Russia’s Far East and to expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
  4. This forum is sponsored by the organizing committee appointed by Roscongress.
  5. This forum serves as a platform for the discussion of key issues in the world economy, regional integration, and the development of new industrial and technological sectors, as well as of the global challenges facing Russia and other nations.

Agreements signed at the EEF focus on infrastructure, transportation projects, mineral excavations, construction, industry and agriculture.

Who are the major actors in the Forum?

This year, the Forum aimed at connecting the Far East with the Asia Pacific region.

1. China

  • It is the biggest investor in the region as it sees potential in promoting the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and Polar Sea Route in the RFE.
  • China’s investments in the region account for 90% of the total investments. Russia has been welcoming Chinese investments since 2015; more now than ever due to the economic pressures caused by the invasion in Ukraine.
  • The Trans-Siberian Railway has further helped Russia and China in advancing trade ties. The countries share a 4000-kilometer-long border, which enables them to tap into each other’s resources with some infrastructural assistance.
  • China is also looking to develop its Heilongjiang province which connects with the RFE. China and Russia have invested in a fund to develop northeastern China and the RFE, supplying natural gas, and a rail bridge connecting the cities of Nizhneleninskoye and Tongjiang.

2. South Korea

South Korea has invested in shipbuilding projects, manufacturing of electrical equipment, gas-liquefying plants, agricultural production and fisheries.

3. Japan

  • Japan has identified eight areas of economic cooperation and pushed private businesses to invest in the development of the RFE.
  • Japan seeks to depend on Russian oil and gas resources after the 2011 meltdown in Fukushima which led the government to pull out of nuclear energy.
  • The trade ties between Japan and Russia are hindered by the Kuril Islands dispute as they are claimed by both countries.

4. India

  • India seeks to expand its influence in the RFE. During the forum, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed the country’s readiness in expanding trade, connectivity and investments in Russia.
  • India is keen to deepen its cooperation in energy, pharmaceuticals, maritime connectivity, healthcare, tourism, the diamond industry and the Arctic.
  • In 2019, India also offered a $1 billion line of credit to develop infrastructure in the region. Through the EEF, India aims to establish a strong inter-state interaction with Russia.

What does the EEF aim for?

  1. The primary objective of the EEF is to increase the Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in the RFE.
  2. The region encompasses one-third of Russia’s territory and is rich with natural resources such as fish, oil, natural gas, wood, diamonds and other minerals.
  3. The sparse population living in the region is another factor for encouraging people to move and work in the Far East. The region’s riches and resources contribute to 5% of Russia’s GDP. But despite the abundance and availability of materials, procuring and supplying them is an issue due to the unavailability of personnel.
  4. The RFE is geographically placed at a strategic location; acting as a gateway into Asia. The Russian government has strategically developed the region with the aim of connecting Russia to the Asian trading routes.
  5. The Ukraine invasion is a worrying issue as it affects the economic growth of the country. However, Russia believes that it can survive the economic crisis and the sanctions with the help of China and other Asian powers.
  6. The coming together of countries like Myanmar, Armenia, Russia, and China seems like the forming of an anti-sanctions group in the international order.

Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF):

  • It is a US-led initiative that aims to strengthen economic partnership among participating countries to enhance resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, fairness, and competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific (IP) region.
  • The IPEF was launched in 2021 with a dozen initial partners who together represent 40% of the world GDP.
  • The IPEF is not a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) but allows members to negotiate the parts they want to. The negotiations will be along four main “pillars”.
  1. Supply-chain resilience
  2. Clean energy, decarbonisation & infrastructure
  3. Taxation & anti-corruption
  4. Fair & resilient trade.
  • India agreed to three out of four pillars, except the one on trade.
  • Currently, India and 13 countries located in the Pacific Ocean are its members,
  • Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam.

Will India be able to achieve a balance between the EEF and the IPEF ?

  • The U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) and the EEF are incomparable based on its geographic coverage and the partnership with the host-countries. India has vested interests in both the forums and has worked towards balancing its involvement. India has not shied away from investing in the Russia-initiated EEF despite the current international conditions.
  • At the same time, India has given its confirmation and acceptance to three of the four pillars in the IPEF. IPEF also presents an ideal opportunity for India to act in the region, without being part of the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) or other regional grouping like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
  • The IPEF will also play a key role in building resilient supply chains. India’s participation in the forum will help in disengaging from supply chains that are dependent on China and will also make it a part of the global supply chain network. Additionally, the IPEF partners will act as new sources of raw material and other essential products, further reducing India’s reliance on China for raw materials.
  • India, Japan and Australia last year also launched the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI), a trilateral initiative of countries in the Indo-Pacific (IP) region to create a virtuous cycle of enhancing supply chain resilience with a view to eventually attaining strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth in the region.


India must balance its membership of multiple regional and global fora like IPEF, EEF, SCRI, QUAD etc, encompassing economic and strategic interests, in pursuit of its new policy of ‘multi-alignment’.

An essential pit stop in parliamentary business


  • The recently concluded monsoon session of Parliament (July-August), saw the Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 being sent to the Standing Committee of Parliament for detailed examination.
  • This is a significant step in the wake of constant criticism by the Opposition that the Government has been trying to steamroll various pieces of legislation in the last few sessions.
  • The worry of the Government has been that so much time is lost in disruptions in Parliament that the legislative process, as it is, becomes unduly delayed and therefore, referring the bills to the Standing Committees may be counterproductive — that could only add to this delay.

Parliamentary committees:

  • The Parliamentary committees are established to study and deal with various matters that cannot be directly handled by the legislature due to their volume. They monitor the functioning of the executive branch and provide legislature with various policy input, playing an important role in Indian democracy.
  • They act as ‘Mini-Parliament’: smaller units of MPs from both Houses, across political parties, that function throughout the year. Parliamentary committees are not bound by the populistic demands that generally act as hindrance in working of parliament.
  • As committee meetings are ‘closed door’ and members are not bound by party whips, the parliamentary committee work on the ethos of debate and discussions. Moreover, they work away from the public glare, remain informal compared to the codes that govern parliamentary proceedings, and are great training schools for new and young members of the House.

Parliamentary committees are of two kinds—Standing Committees and Ad Hoc Committees.

Standing Committees : Permanent (constituted every year or periodically) and work on a continuous basis. They can be categorized into following broad groups

  1. Financial Committees
  2. Departmental Standing Committees (24)
  3. Committees to Inquire
  4. Committees to Scrutinise and Control
  5. Committees Relating to the Day-to-Day Business of the House
  6. House-Keeping Committees or Service Committees

Ad Hoc Committees: Temporary and cease to exist on completion of the task assigned.
Ad hoc committees can be divided into two categories, that is, Inquiry Committee and Advisory Committee.

Departmental Standing Committees (DSCs) of Parliament:

  • Given the enormity of the legislative agenda, it is difficult to address all Bills under consideration by Parliament in-depth on the House floor.
  • Departmental Standing Committees are where a proposed law is discussed in detail.
  • Parliament has 24 Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committees (DRSC), comprising members of the Parliament of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in the ratio 2:1, which are duly constituted by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, jointly.

Role of Standing Committees :

  • Main role of the department-related standing committees is to ensure the accountability of government to the Parliament through more detailed consideration of measures in these committees, its intention is not to weaken or criticize the administration or government but to strengthen it by investing in it more Parliamentary support.
  • Hence the main role of departmental standing committees is to secure more accountability of the executives i.e the Council of Ministers to the Parliament.
  • These Departmental standing committees are working particularly while scrutinizing the Budget.

Standing Committees – Members:

  • Each committee consists of 31 members, of which 21 are nominated by the Speaker of Lok Sabha from amongst its members and 10 are nominated by the Chairman of Rajya Sabha from amongst its members. The tenure of each of the members is for 1 year.
  • A minister cannot hold the committee’s membership. If a member after assuming his membership becomes a minister, he ceases to be a member of the respective committee.
  • There are 24 standing committees as 16 departmental standing committees in Lok Sabha and 8 departmental standing committees in Rajya Sabha.

Committees under Lok sabha

  1. Committee on Agriculture
  2. Committee on Information Technology
  3. Committee on Defence
  4. Committee on Energy
  5. Committee on External Affairs
  6. Committee on Finance
  7. Committee on Food, Consumer affairs and Public Distribution
  8. Committee on Labour
  9. Committee on Petroleum and Natural gas
  10. Committee on Railways
  11. Committee on Urban Development
  12. Committee on Water Resources
  13. Committee on Chemicals and Fertilisers
  14. Committee on Rural Development
  15. Committee on Coal And Steel
  16. Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment

Committees under Rajya Sabha

  1. Committee on commerce
  2. Committee on Home Affairs
  3. Committee on Human Resource Development
  4. Committee on Industry
  5. Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forest
  6. Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture
  7. Committee on Health and Family Welfare
  8. Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice

Relevant parliamentary data on the working of Parliament and its committees:

  • The functioning of the monsoon session of Parliament this year bears testimony to this fact: the Lok Sabha’s productivity was 47% and the Rajya Sabha only 42%.
  • The percentage of Bills having been referred to the DRSCs during the tenures of the 14th (2004-2009), 15th (2009-2014) and 16th Lok Sabhas (2014-2019) has been 60%, 71% and 27%, respectively.
  • The fall in this percentage during the 16th Lok Sabha was witnessed largely in the second half of its session, when the Government was in a hurry to push its big ticket reforms through and the Opposition was equally adamant to stall it in view of high stakes involved in the 2019 elections.

Committee versus Parliament

  • Even though it is not obligatory for the Government to agree to refer each Bill to the DRSC, the experience, both nationally and internationally, has been that referring a Bill to the DRSC has been of use to the process of lawmaking.
  • It has been alleged that Bills which are not being referred to the parliamentary committees, are not examined properly, especially from the perspective of consumers and stakeholders and remain just a bureaucratically conceived piece of legislation. As proof of this, the case of the three Farm Bills is cited as they were passed without being referred to the DRSC and had to be withdrawn later.
  • The examination of the Bills by the parliamentary committees is more to the benefit of the Government than the Opposition. The simple reason for this is that the tenor and the ambience of the discussions in the parliamentary committee and in Parliament are two entirely different things.
  • The committee meetings are in camera and, therefore, the meetings are held in a comparatively congenial atmosphere of bonhomie and cordiality than they would be in Parliament.
  • The deliberations in these committees mostly add value to the content of the legislation and, more often than not, the Members, their party positions notwithstanding, try to reach a consensus.
  • Additionally, such pieces of legislation after examination in the committees, have some sort of ownership of the members of the committee, both from the ruling side and the Opposition, even though it is also a function of the skill of the chairman of the committee.

Way forward:

It has been observed that the reluctance to refer the Bills to the committee arises more out of inaction and ignorance of the Ministry concerned, and rarely out of ideological or policy reasons. So, the following changes could be suggested to be made into procedures meant for consideration of Bills.

  1. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha have powers to refer Bills to a DRSC of Parliament. Make this a compulsory/ automatic requirement.
  2. An exemption could be made with the specific approval of the Speaker/Chairman after detailed reasons for the same. The prerogative of the House to refer the Bills to the Standing committee, through an amendment, would, of course, remain unaffected.
  3. All discussions in the Parliamentary Standing Committee should be frank and free. For this, it may be provided that during the discussions of the committee meetings, no whip of the party would apply to them. In any case, they have the liberty to vote in favour or against the Bill in Parliament.
  4. The committees can be given a fixed timeline to come up with the recommendation and present its report which can be decided by the Speaker/Chairman. The committees mostly abide by this direction of the Speaker/Chairman.
  5. But to deal with just political exigencies, it can be provided that in case the committee fails to give its recommendation within the approved/extended time, the Bill may be put up before the House concerned directly.
  6. To ensure quality work in the committees, experts in the field may be invited who could bring with them the necessary domain knowledge and also help introduce the latest developments and trends in that field from worldwide.
  7. The Speaker/Chairman should have the right to fix a time limit, sometimes even stringent, if the government of the day asks for it and the demand is found to be reasonable by the Speaker/Chairman.
  8. Between two sessions, there is generally enough time to organise committee meetings for discussions on Bills in the parliamentary committees.
  9. When it comes to the budget proposals of the Ministries, the committees should not limit themselves to discussing just the budget proposals and endorsing them with a few qualifications here or amendments there. They should also come up with suggestions for the Ministry to take up new initiatives and people-friendly measures.


The sanctity and good work of ‘mini Parliaments’ must be continued by both the government and the opposition, which will strengthen Parliamentary democracy.


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