The 12th Russia-India-China (RIC) foreign ministers meeting in New Delhi on 10 November reviewed the foreign policy and security architecture of major international flashpoints like Afghanistan, Syria and Iran and also turned a laser beam focus on tackling together problems of terrorism and drugs trafficking.
The three foreign ministers Sergei Lavrov (Russia), Salman Khurshid (India) and Wang Yi (China) had convergent positions on virtually all issues, though the same cannot be said about the Afghanistan issue.
On Afghanistan, India and Russia are on the same page and are worried, whereas China does not have much of a problem thanks to its all-weather friend Pakistan. India and Russia are concerned about the post-2014 Afghanistan situation and are apprehensive of the inevitable resurgence of the Taliban once the American and NATO troops’ draw-down is complete. But China would not have a problem in dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan because of strong Beijing-Islamabad relations.
Here are three major issues discussed at length by the RIC foreign ministers with a brief India-centric analysis in parenthesis.
Twin issues of Afghanistan and terrorism
The RIC foreign ministers dwelt at length on the issue of terrorism that affects all three countries and the feared spike in terrorist activities in the post-2014 Afghanistan when American and NATO troops are scheduled to withdraw troops from the landlocked nation.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asked for "additional measures" by the international community to prevent escalating security threats in Afghanistan. Lavrov made some pertinent remarks during the joint media briefing by the three foreign ministers after their meeting and said they shared concerns on the post-2014 Afghanistan. He stressed that the RIC will "make every effort to make Afghanistan a peaceful, prosperous and stable country".
Lavrov also underlined the need for concerted efforts by the international community to prevent the escalation of drug trafficking in Afghanistan.
Khurshid echoed Lavrov’s remarks and said the talks had been "very productive" and RIC is a "platform for closer cooperation and convergence on important regional and global issues".
For his part, Chinese foreign minister Wang underpinned the need for greater RIC synergies saying that Russia, India and China are bordered by three oceans, and represent 40 percent of the world population, have 22 percent of the world's land mass and also comprise of the major markets of the world.
The RIC foreign ministers condemned in strongest terms the terrorist attack in Beijing on 28 October 2013 and reiterated that terrorism is a threat to international peace and security and a grave violation of human rights and a crime against humanity. They condemned terrorism “in all its forms and manifestations”, committed by whomever, wherever, and for whatever purposes.
They agreed that there cannot be ideological, religious, political, racial, ethnic, or any other justification for acts of terrorism and underlined the need to bring to justice perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of terrorist acts.
(RIC has been discussing terrorism for years but such discussions have by and large been mere talking shops. The three countries will do well to announce whatever concrete deliverables, if any, have flowed out of these discussions. China can contribute solidly in this regard if only it could exercise its immense leverage with Pakistan, a major source of jihadi brand of terrorism in the region and the world. It will be a good idea if the Chinese could be more open and transparent in reading the rule book of civilized nations to Pakistan. But alas! If wishes were horses!)
Syria was another high point of RIC foreign ministers’ discussions. They agreed that peaceful political inclusion is the only solution to the growing crisis in Syria and Khurshid pointed out that the three countries are on the same page on the subject. Khurshid said all three of them were of the same view that a sustainable political solution can only be found through a peaceful and inclusive political process and not through military solution.
In a significant forward-looking diplomatic move, which Lavrov talked about, the RIC foreign ministers have supported holding the Geneva-2 conference at the earliest. “We share common attitude towards the situation in Syria, and our friends actively supports efforts that have been made to solve the Syrian crisis peacefully without the use of force and on the basis of international law,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov pointed out that the three countries share common approaches towards the organization of the forum (it should be highest possible representative) and support the ongoing work of UN experts who are engaged in destroying chemical weapons in Syria.
In this context, Wang Yi stressed on the need for enhanced strategic co-operation among the RIC countries while Lavrov spoke about a ‘new architecture of international relations’.
(While the exact dates of Geneva-2 conference on Syria are yet to be announced, the proposed forum holds lot of promise considering the substantial progress made by another Geneva process on the issue of Iran. India should do its bit at the upcoming conference and make a strong pitch for resolving international political disputes diplomatically instead of military force.)
Lavrov briefed his Indian and Chinese counterparts about the deliberations at the just-concluded Geneva conference between six world powers and Iran which he had attended. He informed his colleagues that though the Geneva conference has ended without any deal, it has led to the narrowing of differences between the West and Iran and an attempt to reach a consensus with Iran was underway.
"The meeting has proved that the negotiations on this issue were concentrated on search of understanding mutually acceptable decision. We are trying to reach consensus. The new Iran government has been very decisive in taking the necessary steps in this area. And the negotiations we had in 3+3 meeting with Iran very substantial. Based on the assessment of all the participants of (the November 7-9) meeting, we have reached a very big progress. I am ready to confirm that assessment and I have shared the details with the foreign ministers of India and China," the Russian foreign minister said.
Lavrov lauded the efforts of the new government in Iran and the US delegation led by US Secretary of State John Kerry for making valiant efforts in resolving the Iran issue. Lavrov talked of similar synergies of the RIC on the Iran issue and the need for returning to the negotiating process on the Korean Peninsula to completely demilitarize it.
(The international community on the one hand and Iran and the sextet of P5 + Germany on the other should seize this opportunity and clinch a settlement acceptable to all. If this were to happen, India will stand to gain handsomely – politically, strategically and economically.)
Overall, the RIC foreign ministers’ meeting has proven one thing: the three countries are increasingly collaborating on all major global issues and this synergy is set to intensify further.
The writer is a Firstpost columnist and a strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha
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Updated Date: Nov 12, 2013 21:42:29 IST