The Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral has “incredible potential” for cooperation among the three countries, and it could be a supportive framework to promote constructive dialogue between New Delhi and Beijing, Russian Ambassador Denis Alipov said.
The ambassador told PTI that the approach of the RIC is very different from the policy of some powers, which, he said, “purposefully misuse” disagreements between India and China.
Mr Alipov also criticised the US-led ‘Indo-Pacific” initiative, saying it is part of a “containment policy”, but appreciated India’s position at Quad for refusing to endorse its “divisive” statements.
The ambassador told PTI that the RIC has been instrumental in increasing “mutual understanding, trust and stability” in the region, and it can contribute further to boosting cooperation and coordination among the member states.
“Certainly, for Russia, this is a priority format, which, we believe, could be supportive in the promotion of a constructive dialogue between New Delhi and Beijing,” he said.
“It is obviously a very different approach against the policy of some other powers, which purposefully misuse disagreements between India and China in their geopolitical games,” he said, in remarks seen as an indirect dig at the US.
His comments came in response to a question on how Russia sees cooperation under the RIC framework.
The Indian and Chinese troops remained locked in a stand-off in several friction points in eastern Ladakh, though they managed to complete the disengagement process in some areas.
As the bitter border row lingered on for over two years despite multiple rounds of diplomatic and military talks, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar asserted last week that the state of the border will determine the state of the India-China relationship.
“It (RIC) is very instrumental in increasing mutual understanding, trust and stability in the region as well as to support the agenda of multilateral institutions we are all part of, like BRICS and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) against the backdrop of the global and regional turbulence.
Under the RIC framework, the foreign ministers of the three countries meet periodically to discuss bilateral, regional and international issues of their interest.
The BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) brings together five of the largest developing countries in the world, representing 41 per cent of the global population, 24 per cent of the global GDP and 16 per cent of the global trade.
Asked about cooperation between New Delhi and Moscow in the backdrop of strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific, Mr Alipov said there is no consensus yet on the term “Indo-Pacific”.
“We also keep in mind that the US is using this terminology to conduct an exclusive and containment policy, having openly labelled Russia as a threat well before the Ukrainian crisis escalated,” he said.
“And not only Russia. Moreover, the US is promoting such policy in restricted multilateral formats trying to engage other countries in confrontation,” the envoy said.
“In this regard, we highly appreciate the Indian position, for instance, in Quad refusing to join divisive statements,” he added.
The Quad or Quadrilateral coalition comprises India, the US, Australia and Japan.
India has been pitching for an open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific. The Quad has been ramping up efforts to boost cooperation in Indo-Pacific, and rejects criticism that it is directed against any country.
“Holistically, the Russian and Indian approaches in the region stay like-minded. Our actions match the words when we express the support to the central role of ASEAN in the development of the regional architecture,” Mr Alipov said.
The 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), considered one of the most influential groupings in the region, is a key stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific.
“We closely cooperate in the framework of EAS (East Asia Summit), ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum) and ADMM (ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting)-Plus. There is a large scope for further expansion of our dialogue,” the Russian envoy said.
The ADMM-Plus is a platform comprising the ASEAN and its eight dialogue partners — India, China, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States.
Mr Alipov said the “best characteristic” of the Russia-India strategic partnership is that it is not directed against anyone.
“It stands for equal multipolarity, the central role of the UN, respect for interests and concerns of all countries as important provisions for global and regional stability,” he said.
“Our approaches to all major issues are similar or coinciding. We maintain comprehensive coordination on all levels starting with the highest one and extending to the heads of security councils, foreign ministers and permanent representatives in international organisations,” he said.
Mr Alipov said India and Russia jointly contribute to efforts to find commonly acceptable solutions to various challenges and threats.
“What we really are against is unilaterally imposed confrontational approaches, attempts to interfere in domestic affairs, promote exclusivity and exercise double standards, which in turn are the core roots of any geopolitical turmoil,” he said.
The ambassador specifically mentioned “strong interaction” between the two countries in the UN Security Council, where India is currently a non-permanent member.
“Our overall cooperation is exemplary, and we wish to have the same with all countries. Whatever differences we may have, we take advantage of our well-established trusted dialogue for mutual satisfaction,” he said.
Asked about US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, Mr Alipov claimed that the trip was in line with the US’s policy for the region.
“The relations between both sides of the Taiwan Strait are exclusively China’s domestic affair since Taiwan is an inalienable part of it,” he said.