Sushma Swaraj attends Russia-India-China trilateral meet in Wuzhen: All you need to know about the RIC grouping

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday raised the recent Pulwama terror attack at her bilateral meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi in Wuzhen, a day after India claimed to have destroyed a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Pakistan.

Sushma arrived in China for a trilateral meeting with Russia and the host country. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov also reached Wuzhen and will meet separately with Sushma after a meeting between the three countries.

Together, the three form the crucial RIC (Russia-India-China) grouping. The countries are three of the largest in Eurasia and geographically contiguous. Together, the RIC countries occupy over 19 percent of the global landmass and contribute to over 33 percent of global GDP, notes the Observer Research Foundation. Russia, India and China have met 16 times (including this one) for their Foreign Ministerial Meetings. They have also met for trilateral discussions on sidelines of bigger international meets.

How the RIC has evolved

 Sushma Swaraj attends Russia-India-China trilateral meet in Wuzhen: All you need to know about the RIC grouping

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the RIC meeting. Twitter/@EOIBeijing

Conceived by the then Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov during his visit to Indian in 1998, the strategic triangle of the RIC has not been given much importance despite occasional meetings between the respective foreign ministries and heads on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and other multilateral meetings, says ORF.

Over time, the RIC has decreased in importance as a standalone group and developed into the core of several other international groupings like the BRICS (comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which include Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan along with the RIC countries.

The last time the heads of states of these three countries sat together was in Buenos Aires, on 30 November, 2018, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian president Vladimir Putin and People's Republic of China president Xi Jinping held a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit.

The idea of the RIC meeting which Sushma is attending now, took on tangible form in 2002, when former the then foreign ministers of Russia, China, and India — Igor Ivanov, Tang Jiaxuan and Yashwant Sinha — met on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The Ministry of External Affairs, in its official statement on the 2019 meeting, said the three countries are "expected to exchange views on the global situation, regional developments of common concern, address global challenges such as terrorism and discuss trilateral exchanges and activities". This is exactly what they have done in their earlier meetings as well. But analysts remain unconvinced when it comes to the results of these meetings.

How useful is the RIC

While all three countries are nuclear powers and two, Russia and China, are permanent members of the UN Security Council, the efficacy of their meets are invariably ruined by fraught relations between India and China, which have worsened over the Doklam stand off and China's stand on Pakistan's terror funding.

The 2017 RIC meeting. AP

The 2017 RIC meeting. AP

The last RIC Foreign Ministerial Meeting had been held in New Delhi on 11 December 2017.

This meeting, reported ORF, should have taken place in April 2017, but was delayed because the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi did not respond to the invitation extended by India, in what was considered a protest by the country against India allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh earlier that month. The RIC meeting of 2017 offered an opportunity to India and China to discuss Doklam and other challenges. However, even though favourable press statements were made at the end of the meet, as is often the case, there was no significant stride made in handling China's ambitions in the North East.

Even though India, China and Russia may disagree on a number of security issues in Eurasia, there are areas where their interest converge, like, for instance, on Afghanistan and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (which India wishes to join).

But analysts have suggested that it is contradictory, if not counterproductive, for India to be a member of these groupings at the same time as they hold opposing views on several issues. While Russia and China grow increasingly closer, India has effectively been pushed into a corner in this grouping, even as it grapples with Chinese incursion. India's friendship with the United States, a country which is at the forefront of Russia and China's concerns also does it no favours in finding solutions to common issues.

In line with its attempts to keep the spotlight on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, India has significantly always made a case for strengthening cooperation among the three countries in effectively countering terrorism and naming Pakistan-based terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed in the RIC communique. Sushma is set to repeat these demands once again on Wednesday.

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Updated Date: Feb 27, 2019 11:14:44 IST