The statement on China and stand on Pakistan are significant amid the India-China disengagement process along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and ahead of Russian Foreign Minister’s trip to Islamabad.
ET had reported on Monday that Indian perspective on China will be key element at the Indo-Russian Foreign Minister level dialogue here on Tuesday that took place close on the heels of the Russian Foreign Minister’s China trip. It may be recalled that Russia was engaged with backchannel diplomacy last year to defuse tensions between Delhi and Beijing following the Galwan standoff even as Moscow continued to supply defence equipment to the Indian military to guard LAC. As the chair of BRICS, Moscow was the venue for a bilateral dialogue between Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi last September. In the words of the Indian Foreign Minister, “Our defence sector requirements in the past year were expeditiously addressed.”
Addressing a joint press meet with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar here Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed reports of probable military alliance between Russia and China and noted that Moscow is interested in inclusive cooperation and described military alliances as counter-productive. Lavrov said ‘Net’ (no in Russian) when asked about Russia-China military alliance at the presser before explaining in details the Russian position. “The Russia-China relations are at the highest but the goal of military alliance is not pursued.”
Lavrov, however, noted that he heard about possible military alliances in West Asia and Asia including Asian-NATO. “Our Indian Friends have the same position as us. We believe that military alliance is counter-productive and we are interested in inclusive cooperation that is for something and not against something.” It may be noted here that Quad has been dubbed in some quarters as probable Asian NATO. However, New Delhi is not enthusiastic on transforming it into a military alliance.
ET has learnt from highly placed sources that during Jaishankar-Lavrov dialogue the Russian side also reiterated its support for India’s position on Kashmir and Pakistan besides making it clear that will neither join CPEC or supply defence equipment to Islamabad. Russia spoke about non-interference in internal matters of India and addressing the Indo-Pak issues based on the past bilateral arrangements, sources informed, adding the dialogue was marked by extremely cordiality and warmth.
India has been emphasising on a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region and as part of its inclusivity concept views Russia as a power in the Pacific and a key player in the Indo-Pacific region. This issue also figured in Tuesday’s dialogue.
Moscow and New Delhi have started to cooperate in certain geographical zones in the Indo-Pacific region. India has energy investments in Russian Far-East and has made initial moves to invest in other areas in the region. Indo-Russian Eastern Maritime Corridor connecting the ports of Chennai and Vladivostok is in the works and figured high on the Jaishankar-Lavrov meet. The Chennai-Vladivostok maritime link was operational during the Soviet period. “We assessed positively our economic cooperation, noting the new opportunities in Russian Far East. We spoke of connectivity, including the International North-South Transport Corridor and the Chennai-Vladivostok Eastern Maritime Corridor,” Jaishankar told reporters.
New Delhi and Moscow are in talks to join hands with ASEAN related bodies as part of their emerging Indo-Pacific partnership, besides widening their connectivity and business links in East Asia and North-East Asia including with Japan. India and Russia will explore bilateral partnership in the ASEAN with focus on post-pandemic economic rebuilding.
Referring to his discussions on this subject, Jaishankar said, “I shared our view-point on the Indo-Pacific. As our Prime Minister pointed out at the Shangri-La Dialogue some years ago, contemporary challenges require countries to work together in new and different ways. Such cooperation also reflects the multi-polar and rebalanced character of global politics. India is strongly committed to ASEAN centrality and this is underlined by the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative that it has been advocating at the East-Asia summit. As we implement our Act East and beyond policy, Russia is a very important partner. Whether it is their Far East or whether it is the Chennai-Vladivostok Corridor.”
At the joint presser Lavrov also spoke of Russia manufacturing 750 million doses of the Sputnik vaccine in India. In his remarks Jaishankar said, “our pharmaceutical collaboration has become more serious and as many of you are aware we have a Russian vaccine under discussion for production in India.” He said he has invited Russia to take advantage and invest in India under the AtmaNirbhar Bharat initiative.
Among regional issues, Lavrov and Jaishankar also sought to narrow the gap on perspectives on Afghanistan and its future, ET has learnt. Lavrov was accompanied at the dialogue by Russia’s interlocutor on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov. Jaishankar said, “I shared our approach that a durable peace there would require harmonising interests of all, both within and around that country. The peace process must be based on foundational principles to which we all subscribe. And a political solution should mean an independent, sovereign, united and democratic Afghanistan.”
Lavrov’s trip also helped to prepare for the India-Russia annual summit in India later this year besides forward looking dialogue on the issues on defence, energy & connectivity deals. Agenda for the BRICS Summit that India will host later this year was also be the focus for the Lavrov visit. India is also the current chair of Russia-India-China or RIC format.
Faster connectivity between the two sides to increase volume of business is a priority for the two sides and the first Ministerial visit to India from Russia since the outbreak of Covid presented an opportunity to discuss the initiatives. India is keen to give a push to connectivity links in the Eurasian theatre, including Russia, via INSTC and Chabahar Port. Iran and West Asia also figured high on the agenda of the meeting.
“The meeting went very well. Lavrov made every effort to explain issues of interest in great detail as did Dr Jaishankar. It was a warm cordial conversation. Lot of mutual respect for each other. Both FMs are of the highest caliber,” a high level source told ET.
Russian Deputy PM Yury Borisov is expected to visit New Delhi later this month for the Joint Commission meeting with Jaishankar.