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Russia-India-China Virtual Meet

Russia-India-China Virtual Meet

Context:

At the Russia-India-China Foreign Minister-level virtual interaction Indian External affairs minister mentioned that recognizing the legitimate interests of partners, along with respecting international law, is key to building a durable world order.

Background

  • Virtual meeting of foreign ministers of India, China and Russia was set to lowering LAC tensions.
  • Indian soldiers were killed after a violent confrontation with Chinese troops in the Himalayan region of Ladakh in the deadliest clash in nearly 50 years.
  • Since early May 2020 thousands of Chinese troops have crossed to the Indian side of the LAC, the 3,488km de facto border between the two neighbours, at several places - Pangong Tso Lake, Galwan Valley and Demchok in Ladakh, and Nathu La in Sikkim - and built bunkers and brought armoured trucks and artillery.

Summary of the Debate

Key Takeaways from the Meeting

  • Russia does not want any outsider mediation from the outside in the region and believes India and China are capable of resolving long-standing issues.
    • Russia does not want further deterioration between India and China relation because this will bring India closer to the U.S.A.
  • Russia is also supportive of the idea of India’s membership of UNSC.
  • India's External Affairs Minister called on all countries to respect international law and help build a durable world order.
  • For India, Russia is still a good and trustworthy friend which would not come against India at the first place. India and Russia need some space of their own to build further good relation.

Russian Interest

  • Russia wants peace in the Eurasian region. Russia is already facing challenges and many sanctions from the U.S.A and Western European countries.
  • It does not want tensions in the region and cannot afford India’s and America’s closeness in the region.
  • Russia is part of BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (S.C.O) along with India and China. Through these groupings, Russia is trying to build a new world order and tensions between China and India could adversely affect the functioning of these groupings.
  • India and China both are bigger economies than Russia. India is one of the largest importers of Russian weapons. China is one of the largest exporters to Russia. The tension between India and China can impact the economy of Russia badly.

Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral

  • RIC was conceived by the then Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov in 1998. The idea of the RIC never really took off, unlike the BRICS, despite occasional meetings on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly and other multilateral meetings.
  • The RIC is a significant multilateral grouping because it brings together the three largest Eurasian countries which are also incidentally geographically contiguous.
  • 19 per cent of the global landmass and about 33 per cent of the global GDP is occupied by the RIC together.
    • All three are nuclear powers and two, Russia and China, are permanent members of the UN Security Council, while India aspires to be one.
    • Though apparently an unlikely troika due to the historical differences between New Delhi and Beijing, what binds the group together is the now strong partnership between Beijing and Moscow and the time-tested relations between Moscow and New Delhi.
    • So, Russia becomes the bridge between India and China, since it enjoys strong relations with both.
    • Moreover, the RIC forms the core of both the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the BRICS.
  • For China, the RIC provides a platform where it can push its interests in Eurasia.
    • As for India, it is in a geostrategic sweet spot today. It is being wooed by everyone — from the smaller powers in East Asia to the bigger powers like the US, Russia and China.

Significance of RIC

  • India, China and Russia may disagree on a number of issues in Eurasia but there are areas where their interest are similar, like, for instance, on Afghanistan.
    • They could work together as part of the RIC to ensure stable peace in Afghanistan and by extension, in Central Asia.
  • The trio could also contribute to creating a new economic structure for the world. The US, under President Trump, apparently wants to break down the current economic and political order.
    • The RIC could offer some suggestions which could be acceptable to the US.
  • Regular RIC interactions could also help these three countries in identifying other issues where they have congruent views like the volatile situation in West Asia, particularly on issues like the sanctions on Iran.
  • They could work together on disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. Finally, with the Northern Sea Route opening up due to climate change, the RIC has a common interest in ensuring that it is not left to the West and Russia alone and that India and China make the transition from rule followers to rule-makers by helping formulate some of the rules governing the Arctic route.

Russian relations with India

  • India and Russia have a historical relationship spanning over seven decades.
  • Though in recent years India has been tilted towards U.S.A and Russia is exporting a large amount of weapons to Pakistan, the relationship between both the countries has grown in many areas.
  • The strongest pillar of the strategic partnership between both the countries is of the defence basket.
  • In recent times, India has consciously diversified its new purchases from other countries but still, the bulk of its defence equipment is from Russia.
  • 60 to 70 per cent of India’s import is from Russia and India needs a regular and reliable supply of spare parts from the Russian defence industry.
  • At this time when there is tension at the border, Indian Defence Minister will discuss supply and purchase of new defence systems, like the S-400 missile defence system, with the Russian top brass in the military and government.

Way Forward

  • Communication line should be open with China but a clear and strong message should also be gone that integrity of India will not be compromised.
  • The platform like RIC only make sense if China would play by rules of the games. If India would be pushed too hard, which China is doing, RIC is not worthy.

Main points made by Guests:

1. Vishnu Prakash, Former Ambassador:

  • RIC was conceived by the then Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov in 1998.
  • Though in recent years India has been tilted towards U.S.A and Russia is exporting a large amount of weapons to Pakistan, the relationship between both the countries has grown in many areas.

2- Shakti Sinha, Strategic Expert:

  • Russia wants peace in the Eurasian region. Russia is already facing challenges and many sanctions from the U.S.A and Western European countries.
  • It does not want tensions in the region and cannot afford India’s and America’s closeness in the region.
  • Russia is part of BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (S.C.O) along with India and China. Through these groupings, Russia is trying to build a new world order and tensions between China and India could adversely affect the functioning of these groupings.

3- Swaran Singh, Chairperson, Centre for International Politics, JNU:

  • Russia does not want any outsider mediation from the outside in the region and believes India and China are capable of resolving long-standing issues.
  • Russia does not want further deterioration between India and China relation because this will bring India closer to the U.S.A.
  • Russia is also supportive of the idea of India’s membership of UNSC.

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