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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 101

The India, China, Russia Triangle

By M Rama Rao & Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

Surprisingly, the New Delhi meting of foreign ministers of India, China and Russia did not draw a wider notice. It could be because a major focus of the three-way talks was trade and energy, not conflict resolution, though tricky issues like terrorism and West Asia were on their agenda. Undeniably, however, the trilateral cooperation has the potential that may start to command a wider and urgent notice on the global stage when the US position as a self-appointed global policeman is increasingly questioned, if not disliked.

The governments of many European allies of the US may not have said explicitly but they fear that backing the current US policies blindly would bring disaster to them. If the unipolar world is about to change it may be a good time to forge new and potentially powerful relationships amongst India, China and Russia.

More than 40 percent of world’s population lives in these three countries that occupy more than a quarter of planet Earth. More than half of nuclear warheads of the world are stocked in Russia and China with the addition of a modest Indian stockpile. As for purchasing power parity, the combined GDP of India and China is bigger than that of the US. While China is being hailed as the next superpower, India is not far behind. It is catching up. Economic clout gets converted into political clout.

The New Delhi conclave provided a clue about the role that the trioka wants to play in the world when the three foreign ministers decided that they should meet more regularly. They were clear that ‘cooperation, rather than confrontation’ should govern the approach to regional and global affairs. And expectedly they called for ‘reforming’ the United Nations so that the world body becomes more ‘effective, reflecting the global realties’—something that some may interpret as a sop for Indian ambition to become a permanent member of the Security Council.

When the then Russian Prime Minister, Yevgeny Primakov, floated the idea of a cooperative alliance of the three countries in 1996 the Chinese showed little interest; India did not appear to be overenthusiastic either. The world has changed a great deal in the last 10 years. The foreign ministers of the three countries have met six times though these meetings were not structured summits; their last meeting in New Delhi had them closeted for over 100 minutes.

Perhaps a big impetus for this trilateral gathering came when President, Vladimir Putin had a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Chinese President on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in St Petersburg last year. It was a clear signal that Russia was determined to make the trilateral relationship an effective instrument in global affairs since there was ‘so much convergence’ in their views on issues like terrorism in all its manifestations.

A few more trilateral meetings like the recent Delhi meeting with a structured agenda may be necessary before this trilateral relationship takes the shape of a new power bloc, though none of the three countries would perhaps agree to that moniker. The world is no longer going to accept the US as the sole arbiter of the destinies of nations, big and small.

New Delhi does aspire for a role as a global player. It does not see itself just a ‘regional superpower’ of South Asia eternally engaged in countering the one-upmanship of its western neighbour. India has also left its past bitterness against China as the two Asian giants look forward to mutually beneficial ties and a role beyond their region.

Admittedly, in the recent past there is a newfound closeness in India’s relationship with the US. The Sino-American economic ties are continuously expanding. Anti-Americanism is unmistakable in all that China and India stand for. It is not wide off the mark to say dilution of America’s influence on the world stage is the unspoken long–term goal of both countries. Russia is only seen as distancing itself away from Washington rather wilfully.

President Putin has just made a hard-hitting speech against the Americans at the annual security conference in Munich. He accused the US with pursing ‘ruinous’ polices that had made the world a more dangerous place to live in. The unilateral and ‘illegal’ moves by the US have not solved a single problem in the world but created more areas of tension and conflict. He bluntly asked the US to forget about leading a unipolar world.

The Russian leader’s anger with the White House US is understandable because the Russians feel that for the past 15 years the Americans have been cheating and lying to them. The US went back on an assurance given just after the end of the Cold War that NATO would not be expanded eastward. The US has further upset the Russians by establishing military bases in some of the countries of ‘new’ Europe (formerly East Europe) and also proposing a missile defence system in Europe that is clearly directed at Russia.

The triangular relationship of India, China and Russia has no military overtones. Nor are their intentions militarily aggressive and politically ambitious The ties that the three countries are forging will not be a substitute for the present role of the US, which, as Putin said in Munich, is one of imposing its will and laws ‘on all spheres—economic, political and humanitarian.’

A built-in advantage for India in the success of the trilateral cooperation will be a tacit acknowledgement of New Delhi as a global player, with or without a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

- Syndicate Features -

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