New Delhi: Russia has proposed to host the first meeting of Russia-India-China (RIC) defence ministers in Moscow in September, providing an opportunity for India and China to keep their communication channels open amid the Line of Actual Control standoff. This will be defence minister Rajnath Singh’s second visit to Moscow since June if he undertakes the trip. He represented India at the Victory Day Parade in Moscow on June 24, which provided him an opportunity to seek assurances on critical defence supplies, including early delivery of the S-400 system. An Indian contingent was part of the parade.
The RIC can act as a confidence building measure between India and China. However, India hopes China will reduce tensions along the LAC to achieve an effective outcome of the meetings (organised physically) of the RIC ministers and later, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), ET has learnt.
Moscow expects the RIC meeting to contribute to greater Eurasian stability, according to experts. In September, India will be part of a military exercise in Russia that might include China and other nations. Russia holds the current presidency of RIC-BRICS-SCO and engaged in quiet diplomacy to defuse tensions during the India-China standoff. It salvaged the RIC foreign ministers meeting in June after the PLA killed 20 Indian Army personnel at Galwan Valley. At the June 23 RIC meeting, Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar had a subtle but important message for his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
“… the challenge today is not just one of concepts and norms, but equally of their practice. The leading voices of the world must be exemplars in every way. Respecting international law, recognising the legitimate interests of partners, supporting multilateralism and promoting common good are the only way of building a durable world order,” Jaishankar said.
ET has learnt that India favours supporting Russia on the matter of greater Eurasian stability amid China’s inroads into Central Asia. India is in talks to conclude a free trade agreement with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, which is a huge market. Earlier, Russia played a key role in India’s entry into the SCO amid dilly-dallying tactics by China.
In June, Russia turned down China’s reservations against arms supplies to India as Singh visited Moscow, ET had reported. Moscow, notwithstanding its ties with Beijing, made it clear that it cannot be dictated to and it is Russia’s sovereign decision to supply arms to its partners. Subsequently, there have been unconfirmed reports that Russia has delayed the supply of S-400 systems to China, indicating a growing rift between the two nations.