Rus­sia-In­dia-China tri­lat­eral moves

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Commentary -

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.

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