Russia-India-China trilateral moves
The trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC) in New Delhi during mid-December 2017 was good for optics. It produced nothing sensational. But when top officials of leading countries gather to speak of charting a productive path and fashion a cooperative outlook, the right signals go out. The meeting of Sushma Swaraj, Wang Yi and Sergei Lavrov should also help balance concerns in any quarters that India has begun to form a bloc with the United States, Japan and Australia (the “Quad”) to box in China in producing a security architecture for the Indo-
Pacific region. This was articulated in the wake US President Donald Trump’s recent Asia-Pacific visit, and was commented on in China.
Mr Trump’s particular reference to “Indo-Pacific”, an accurate enough description, further fuelled calculations that India was being pulled into a potential bloc against China. The notion gained enough traction for Russia’s foreign minister to say in a talk at a New Delhi think tank that a sustainable security architecture for the Asia-Pacific can’t be achieved through a “bloc arrangement” but on “an open-ended collective basis”. Not that the latter is on the cards at all, and no country of the Quad — India included — is interested in barracking China (given their bilateral relations with Beijing). By raising the issue, however, Moscow is signalling the importance of its own ties with China, particularly so in light of the Trump administration’s unceasing hot rhetoric on North Korea, which impacts both Beijing and Moscow.
The trilateral communiqué on terrorism once again left out mentioning Pakistan-based anti-India terrorist groups like Lashkare-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad and only spoke of taking “decisive and concerted actions” against globally proscribed terrorists and terror entities. China has massive investments in Pakistan in the context of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and it clearly can’t go any farther than this in the foreseeable future. But that shouldn’t turn us off Beijing, and we need to look at the balance.
In dealing with regional terrorism emanating from Pakistan, it’s better to be in sync with Moscow and Beijing on a broad political understanding of ways to combat terror than be at odds with them as that would make any consensus elusive. Combating terrorism, each country will have its own threshold. India must be clear it will act the way it needs to and, in the end, it can’t depend on any country in fighting regional or international terrorism directed against it.