Abhay Kumar Singh
Abhay Kumar Singh

Indian-origin Kursk MLA: economic drivers to boost Russia-India friendship

December 19, 2021
Abhay Kumar Singh, who has won the 2017 Assembly election from Russia's Kursk, 500 km south of Moscow, believes multifaceted bilateral cooperation, particularly developing business ties, is key for supporting a vibrant friendship between the two countries.

Patna-born Abhay Kumar Singh arrived in Russia in 1991 to study medicine at Kursk State Medical University. 30 years later, Singh, a Russian citizen, public activist, businessman and

a politician with Russian President Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party, sees Russia as a fertile soil for Indian businesses way beyond the defence sector.

 Mr. Singh, over the past three decades in Russia, you have seen the fall of the USSR, turbulent 90-s and encouraging 2010-s. How would you describe Russia today for those who want to explore it not just as an old-time friend of India or a tourist destination?

I arrived in Russia in the 1990s, just when the country had witnessed a total shift. В стране произошла смена эпох. It happened just in front of my eyes. I’ve travelled from India to the Soviet Union, but had to live and study in another country, Russia. The hardships of the 1990s helped me, a young man then, become rough and tough. They also taught me to appreciate friendship. I’ve witnessed the decline of the USSR and emergence of the independence of Russia, the ‘wild’ capitalism, and then the massive 1998 crisis, when thousands of entrepreneurs lost their fortunes due to the sharp depreciation of the ruble. My business was hit, too.

But today Russia is a country of great opportunities. It has become my motherland: my wife is Russian, my children live and study here. Today, it is a strong state with its own point of view on global affairs and a solid position in the international arena. Russia has a strong leader, Vladimir Putin, who makes competent decisions. And the fact that he saw a strategic partner in India proves his foresight. The president has referred to India as an ‘independent, strong centre of the multipolar world’. He noted that India is close to Russia in terms of their foreign policies’ philosophy and priorities. And I agree with Russia’s leader: our countries need to boost all-round bilateral cooperation, and in particular business ties, because without economic incentive, any friendship sooner or later comes to naught.

 What will help our countries boost these ties?

Cultural exchange is definitely important. In Soviet days, Indian movies were popular back in Russia. The entire country was watching ‘Disco Dancer’ or ‘Seeta and Geeta’ and was in love with it. Today, young people in Russia hardly know about the latest Bollywood movies. And there are so many good ones coming from India’s dream factory: ‘My Name Is Khan’, 'PK’, or, for example, ‘Taare Zameen Par’.

In Kursk, where I am a member of the city assembly, I organize Indian film festivals where Indian contemporary film culture is showcased and discussed. Every year, we hold the International Yoga Day in Kursk. This is important, it brings our nations closer together, and helps us understand each other’s culture. However, while cultural exchange is good, it is important to scale up economic cooperation. And small businesses and SMEs play a crucial role here. Few years back, I brought Indian investors interested in developing the pharmaceutical manufacturing of pharmaceutical products, to the Kursk region. The project did not materialize due to lack of political will from the region’s governor. Today, when the president of the country is talking about boosting business contacts with India, the scenario is likely to change. I think investors from India will be given the green light.

Which sectors would Indian MSMEs be keen to explore in Russia?

India has been the major client for Russia’s defence systems since Independence. I believe we should scale up this cooperation, and also work together on developing new technologies in the field of defence and security. I live in the Kursk region, which is known for its agricultural richness. Every year, over 6 million tons of grain are harvested here. Every fifth spoonful of Russian sugar is made in Kursk. This sector could definitely draw attention from Indian partners.

India is a world leader in the manufacturing of drugs. I hope that the pharmaceutical facility project I’ve mentioned earlier will be revived, especially given that the Kursk region can supply a highly skilled workforce with a medical university and a medical college functioning here.

 

What can ensure that such bilateral projects do not just remain on paper, but become a reality?

India and Russia are two great powers, and we need to cherish our friendship and work together. Relations between our countries are an important factor in ensuring global peace and stability. Together, we are responsible for peace and stability in geopolitical terms.

Russia and India both are countries with high cultural, linguistic and confessional diversity. When addressing the challenges of the modern world, both countries use wisdom accumulated over the centuries. Together, we are contributing to the formation of a more interconnected and diverse world. We have common tasks: ensuring rapid economic development and environmental sustainability, overcoming poverty, reducing inequality between nations as well as providing basic medical services.

We are at a very crucial stage in the development of our relations. It is necessary to establish business contacts as quickly and productively as possible. Of course, this is not a task of one day or even a year. But, this is a very interesting and important job that will strengthen our friendship and benefit both countries in the future.

  

 

 

BIO

Abhay Kumar Singh was born in 1972 in Patna, Bihar in the family of a state-level government official and a housewife. In 1992, after a year of studying Russian language, he got admission at the Kursk State Medical University, Russia. In 1996, he got married to a Russian. He continued his studies at the Tver State Medical Academy. 

After graduation, he returned to Kursk and started supplying medicines from 4 Indian manufacturers to Russia. The business venture was hit during the August 1998 crisis. In 2010, he received Russian citizenship. In 2013, he graduated from the Russian State Social University (RSSU) with a degree in Organization Management. In 2017, Singh joined the ruling ‘United Russia’ political party and was elected to the Kursk city Assembly. He is a member of the Standing Committees of Finance and Urban Planning.

In 2016, he founded the non-profit organization of the Indian-Russian Commonwealth and Cultural Communication. He took the initiative to create a regional business council for cooperation with India. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Singh established the supply of vital drugs from India to Russia and channelled financial help for doctors and medical institutions working with COVID patients.