The 16th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC) took place in Wuzhen, China. The 15th edition was held in New Delhi in December 2017 just after the Doklam standoff between India and China. Leaders of the three countries had also met on the sidelines of G20 Summit in Buenos Aires in November 2018.
During the 16th RIC foreign ministers meeting, the menace of terrorism occupied the central place in the deliberations. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj highlighted Pakistan’s refusal to accept that terrorism is breeding on its territory and its failure to take resolute steps in countering acts of terrorism emanating from Pakistan. She informed the Foreign Ministers of China and Russia about the pre-emptive strikes by Indian Air Force on Jaish-e-Mohammed’s (JeM) terror camps in Balakot area of the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The RIC Joint Statement condemned terrorism in all its forms. The joint statement also emphasised on “terrorist groups being used and supported for political and geopolitical gains and that those committing, orchestrating, inciting or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable”. This clearly indicates that both Russia and China support India in its fight against terrorism. The three sides also agreed for “closer policy coordination to eradicate the breeding grounds of terrorism”. The statement by the Chinese Foreign Minister reiterating the need to jointly combat terrorism through closer policy coordination and practical cooperation should be seen in that perspective.
This is a significant development for India as China has been blocking India’s bid to ban the Jaish-e-Mohammed’s Chief Masood Azhar as a designated international terrorist by the United Nations.
The Joint Statement of the RIC summit also hints at the growing cooperation among the three countries and there is a realisation of each other’s concerns. India-China relations have come a long way – from Doklam stand-off in 2017 to the Wuhan (Informal) Summit in April 2018. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi also visited India in December 2018 to promote cultural ties between India and China. India has been weighing its options and attempting to strike a balance in its relations with China. Both, the major Asian powers understand the risks involved in any derailing of the improvements made lately in the bilateral relations.
For India as well as China and Russia, the RIC holds immense significance and is relevant more than ever. This is one of its key trilateral groupings which involves three major economies of the Eurasian region. While these countries cooperate with each other in forums such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), East Asia Summit (EAS), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the RIC provides them an exclusive platform to exchange views on issues of mutual concern. For India, RIC is important to put forth its point on the table. China and Russia are important countries of the region. India’s participation and engagement with countries at regional and multilateral level only depicts its strategic autonomy.
For China, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been at the core of current foreign policy focus. Focus on BRI has only increased over the past few months. Amidst criticism about the BRI, it is important for China to gain credibility for this China-led infrastructure and connectivity initiative. India and Japan are the only major Asian economies that are not in the favour of China’s BRI. Russia is already actively participating in the BRI. Therefore, China has been using every platform to convince other countries to join the BRI.
Russia, China and India have robust bilateral ties. India has had informal summits with both the countries. The RIC has given the leaders of the three countries an opportunity to discuss issues of mutual concern. As the three large countries in the region, RIC trilateral is significant for maintaining the peace and stability in the wider Eurasian region.
Script: Sana Hashmi, Analyst On Chinese And Eurasian Affairs.