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Indrani Talukdar

Ph.D, Research Fellow at Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi

Russia understands it has a current demographic crisis, especially in regions in Siberia and the Far East. It has set up the State Migration Policy Concept 2019-2025, which is designed to attract foreigners and migrants to re-populate these areas with low populations. Russia will actively support skilled workers to live in these areas of low population and encourage permanent residence if workers build closer ties to Russia. Russia specifically wants to negotiate with India on its State Migration Policy concept so India may provide the skilled workers needed to promote the economic development of Russia in these low populated areas.

The State Migration Policy Concept 2019-2025 opens up vast avenues for India-Russia cooperation. For Russia, to bring up this policy was to regulate the illegal migration that was taking place as well as to develop its economy and the undeveloped and underdeveloped lands in the Far East and Siberia. Russia in its 2013 and 2016 foreign policy concepts has laid down its focus on the development of the Far East and Siberia hence to make these places attractive. The government has come up with a structured legal framework on migrations, which istwo-pronged—regulated migrants to cover the brain drain as well development of the regions.

Russia understands it has a current demographic crisis, especially in regions in Siberia and the Far East. It has set up the State Migration Policy Concept 2019-2025, which is designed to attract foreigners and migrants to re-populate these areas with low populations.

Russia will actively support skilled workers to live in these areas of low population and encourage permanent residence if workers build closer ties to Russia. Russia specifically wants to negotiate with India on its State Migration Policy concept so India may provide the skilled workers needed to promote the economic development of Russia in these low populated areas.

On 31 October 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the State Migration Policy Concept 2019–2025. This policy was approved in 2012. The policy aims to make immigration policy more balanced and also to curb illegal, lower-skilled, and irregularly concentrated regional migration [1], which was the case previously.

Under the State Migration Policy Concept 2019-2025, Russia is creating conditions that would enable ethnic Russians and foreigners to move to Russia for work, permanent residence or citizenship, including in the Far East and Siberian regions. Russia understands that with the decrease in Russian demography, westward migration by the Russians (brain drain) and vast undeveloped/underdeveloped lands in the Far East and Siberia there is a need of a structured migration policy that would attract foreign migrants.

To make the migration policy foreign/migrant friendly, the Russian government has tried to put down objectives that would make the foreigners feel comfortable however, on a regulated basis. The government will be using biometric identification technologies to reduce illegal migration. The new migration policy is also to fight spatial segregation, the formation of ethnic enclaves, and the marginalization of foreign citizens [2]. Xenophobia against migrants is increasing in Russia, including in the Far East regions. However, to point out xenophobia in Russia and to demonize the country will not be justifiable. It is because xenophobia is on the rise everywhere in the world. With rising nationalism and right-wing sentiments, people all around the world are becoming intolerant towards other people. The biggest target in migration is towards the blue-colored migrants, including in Russia. However, to develop and make the Far East attractive, the blue-collar migrants along with the special skilled ones are necessary. The Russian government has laid down measures to protect migrants/foreigners.

To make the Far East and Siberia attractive to the migrants, another objective the Russian government is undertaking is to help the foreigners’ entry and settlement. The government will support those who wish to develop economic, business, professional, scientific, cultural, and other ties with Russia. The government will also help these foreigners to learn the language, history, and culture that can contribute to the economic, social, and cultural development of Russia [3].

One of the problems the Far East and Siberia faces is the spatial disparity. The south side of this region is highly populated because of the climate and the fertile soil. However, due to focus on the south side of the region there is also the growing problem of the spatial disparities. To reduce these challenges, the Russian government is trying to take various measures such as ensuring transport, connectivity of the regions, forming an affordable housing market and meeting the economic, social, educational, professional and cultural needs of citizens.

The Russian government has laid down the specific areas where it needs the maximum requirement of labors. The total number of labors/workers Russia needs to attract is 144,583 in 2019. In this, the maximum requirement is in the sectors of construction (52075), skilled workers in large and small enterprises (20545) and metal and machine building workers (16090) [4].

The reason behind Russia trying to attract more workers in the areas of construction, skilled workers in large and small enterprises and metal and machine building workers is to reduce the spatial disparities especially in the Far East and Siberia.

How India can help

India and Russia completed 71 years of diplomatic relations in April 2019. The two countries share a special and privileged strategic partnership despite the changing geopolitical landscape. To keep the strategic partnership rejuvenated, India and Russia focus on many areas in their bilateral relationship. One of the areas which are being recently focused is the area of migration, especially to the Far East and Siberia. According to Russia’s State Migration Policy Concept, India can help Russia in all the sectors that are mentioned in the Annex on the Vocational Qualification Group mentioned in the policy concept. The areas India can particularly concentrate could be:

  1. Construction, including in building affordable housings, mining, installation, and repair, etc;
  2. Skilled workers in large and small enterprises such as digital technologies, waste management, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, food and agriculture;
  3. Metal and machine building workers;
  4. Workers in the sphere of individual services and the protection of citizens and property. India enjoys goodwill amongst the Russians, and it can contribute to this sector.

There is global climate change, which is opening up opportunities as well as challenges. Another area where India can cooperate with Russia is the science sector. One specific area where Indian scientists can collaborate with Russia is in R&D (research and development) in the fast melting of the permafrost of Siberia. In the latest study, scientists have noted that Siberia will become the target of mass migration by 2080 because of the reduction in the temperature. The lands in the south of Siberia will not be able to sustain the existing population because of heat that will spoil the crops. Cities will become untenable. Scientists have suggested that investments need to be made in new roads, railways and power supplies to support the northern side of Siberia. India should use its good office with Russia and extend its help in building the infrastructure in the north of Siberia. Though 2080 seems to be too far, however, India needs to have long-term goals.

***

The State Migration Policy Concept 2019–2025 opens up vast avenues for India-Russia cooperation. For Russia, to bring up this policy was to regulate the illegal migration that was taking place as well as to develop its economy and the undeveloped and underdeveloped lands in the Far East and Siberia. Russia in its 2013 and 2016 foreign policy concepts [5] has laid down its focus on the development of the Far East and Siberia hence to make these places attractive. The government has come up with a structured legal framework on migrations, which istwo-pronged—regulated migrants to cover the brain drain as well development of the regions.

Disclaimer: The views are that of the authors and not of the Council

1. Iva Mihaylova, “Russia’s New Concept of the State Migration Policy until 2025: A Reform towards Effective Policies for International Economic Migrants?” Geopolitics, History, and International Relations 9(1), 2017, p.177.

2. Source of Reference is the text provided to study by the Indian Council of World Affairs hence the author cannot give the full reference of the text.

3. Ibid. The focus of the government is to attract students and professionals in the educational department. The Kremlin will help in the free movement of students, teachers and scientists.

4. Ibid.

5. One of the aspects related to the development of Far East and Siberia is also to help Russia in strengthening its Asia-Pacific strategy as well as cooperating with the countries of this region.


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