As India fights Chinese belligerence, its diplomatic interactions with Beijing will become highly competitive, however rare such interactions maybe. New Delhi will face one such situation during the coming G-20 Summit, which is set to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in November. Nonetheless, India will not be alone when it comes to the G-20 Summit in Riyadh. India’s friend Russia will probably be augmenting New Delhi’s diplomatic heft.
According to The Print, Moscow is planning to organise a Russia-India-China (RIC) meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit. The Print has claimed that according to the diplomatic sources, the RIC meeting at the sidelines of the G-20 Summit was discussed during the video conference between the Foreign Ministers of three countries on June 23 when Sino-India military tensions were soaring high due to the June 15 Galwan Valley clash.
As per the sources, India and China are yet to confirm their participation in the RIC meeting. The Print has quoted an anonymous official saying, “The RIC summit has not yet been raised by Russia officially… RIC defence ministers’ meeting is agreeable in principle but no dates have been fixed.”
Initially, when Russia started taking interest in the soaring Sino-India military tensions, it was being misinterpreted as Moscow trying to play a role of mediator between New Delhi and Beijing. However, Moscow has publicly denied playing any such role in the backdrop of heightened Sino-India military tensions.
In the run-up to the June 23 RIC Foreign Ministers’ virtual conference, the Russian Foreign Minister had told reporters, “The RIC agenda does not involve discussing issues that relate to bilateral relations of a country with another member of this format.”
Earlier, Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Federation Council too had said, “Our official position is that these bilateral disputes should be dealt with bilaterally. We respect the sovereignty of India and the sovereignty of China. Russia should not interfere in these kinds of disputes.”
It seems that Russia has silently chosen India and snubbed China amidst the ongoing tensions between the two Asian giants. First, Russia decided to fast-track the delivery of defence equipment to India despite China’s attempts to delay the delivery of Russian weapons to India. Then, Russia also snubbed China by suspending the delivery of S-400 missiles to China that can seriously impair the Chinese PLA’s capabilities to thwart India’s air assaults in case of a military flare-up.
Russia’s defence exports form the fulcrum of its China and India ties. By prioritising the delivery of weapons to India, Russian President Putin has sent a loud and clear message- in case of a Sino-India military confrontation, Putin will support his trustworthy friend, Prime Minister Modi and not the hawkish CCP General-Secretary, Xi Jinping.
Apart from tilting towards India over the ongoing military standoff in Eastern Ladakh, Russia is also battling a belligerent China that threatens to eat into Russia’s privileged “sphere of influence”- Central Asia and the Arctic. Most recently, China staked a claim on the Pamir region which forms around 45 per cent of Tajikistan’s territory.
Within Russia, China’s claim over Tajik territory is bound to cause anguish. Tajikistan is the gateway to Central Asia, which was once a part of the Soviet Union but is today divided into five Republics after the Soviet disintegration. Russia continues to maintain very close ties with the Central Asian countries and considers this region as its strategic backyard. However, Beijing is hell-bent on eroding Russian influence in this part of the world.
China is also positioning itself as a ‘Near-Arctic State’ and is eyeing a ‘Polar Silk Road’ in the Arctic waters as soon as the Polar ice cap melts and gives way for rampant commercialisation. China is altogether negating Russia’s claim over the territorial waters and Continental Shelf in the Arctic.
Russian territory itself is not immune to Chinese expansionism. Recently, Chinese wolf-warriors staked claim on the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok, upon which India has been pushing Russaia to pursue its interests in the Indo-Pacific. India and Russia have a Chennai-Vladivostok sea route in the pipeline that will pass through the South China Sea- securing Vladivostok and needling China at the same time.
Russia has therefore found much more space for cooperation with a trustworthy India than an overbearing China. It is therefore only appropriate that PM Modi and Russian President Putin join hands and gang up on Xi Jinping when they meet at the G-20 Summit in a few months.