Galwan Valley clash: As India and China seek to iron out differences, Russia could play key role in defusing tensions
While efforts are still on to further defuse tensions between India and China, Russia appears to be playing a key role in brokering peace.
Over a week after the clashes at Ladakh's Galwan Valley between Indian and Chinese army personnel, the two countries have agreed to disengage forces along the disputed stretch of the Line of Actual Control. While efforts are still on to further defuse tensions, Russia appears to be playing a key role in brokering peace.
Indian officials have been in touch with the Russian government both before the 15 June clashes and afterwards. On 5 June, when tensions along the LAC were increasingly becoming apparent, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had “updated” Russian Ambassador Nikolay Kudashev on the recent developments on the issue.
Two days after the clashes, Indian Ambassador to Russia D Bala Venkatesh Varma also spoke to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov. The Indian Express quoted a statement by the Russian foreign ministry as saying that the officials "discussed regional security, including developments on the Line of Actual Control on the border between India and China in the Himalayas".
On the same day, Kudashev tweeted —
We welcome all steps aimed at de-escalation at the #LAC, including the conversation between the two FMs, and remain optimistic.
— Nikolay Kudashev (@NKudashev) June 17, 2020
However, notwithstanding the note of optimism, Russia has avoided directly expressing any intention of intervening to resolve the conflict between India and China. On Tuesday, at a virtual meeting of RIC (Russia-India-China) foreign ministers, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said, "I don't think India and China need any help from outside. I don't think they need to be helped, especially when it comes to country issues. They can solve them on their own."
Lavrov was further quoted as saying by ANI, "New Delhi and Beijing have shown commitment to a peaceful resolution. They started meetings at the level of defence officers and foreign ministers and neither has made any statement to indicate either will pursue non-diplomatic solutions."
Notwithstanding Russia's official stand of non-intervention that was expressed on Tuesday, another ministerial-level engagement between the three countries is scheduled on 24 June. That is when defence minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe will attend Russia's 75th Victory Day parade at Moscow.
Russia also has reasons to encourage peaceful resolution of disputes between India and China along the LAC. It presently holds the presidency of three groupings in which India and China are also a part — the Russia, India, China (RIC) trilateral; Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). In fact, later this year, Russia is slated to hold the BRICS and SCO summits in St Petersburg. A report in the Economic Times has quoted sources as saying that Russia considers these groupings as mechanisms to balance global power equations, and it is worried that prolonged tensions between India and China might undermine these groupings.
The Economic Times report also points out that there have been fissures in relations between Russia and China of late, which can lead to the former country seeking expanded ties with India. Among the causes for these fissures are said to be the COVID-19 outbreak and China's plans of boosting activities related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Ukraine, which lies on Russia's western border.
While reports suggest that Russia may be seeking to play a role in defusing tensions between India and China, this is not the first time that it is doing so. In 2017, during the Doka La border standoff, Russian diplomats in Beijing were among the few briefed by the Chinese government.
While Russia had dismissed the possibility of mediation on the issue, its ambassador in Bejing Andrey Denisov was quoted as saying to the media, "The history of the 20th Century shows that every time (our) country had an opportunity to play a positive role (in settling international disputes), we did it."
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