THE THREE global powers – China, Russia and India – condemned terrorism and reaffirmed their trilateral partnership to combat violent extremism during the 15th meeting of their respective foreign ministers on Monday.
Meeting in New Delhi, Russia also pressed India over its lack of support for China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative to build trade and infrastructure links across Asia and Europe, suggesting it find a way to work with Beijing on the project.
The powers issued a joint communique which asserted “those committing, organising, inciting or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable and brought to justice”, reported The Hindu.
It was made clear that the cooperation was not directed at any nation, despite India’s long-standing tensions with neighbouring Pakistan over accusations it supports terrorism.
Sino-Indian relations, meanwhile, have been strained during 2017 over a military standoff at the Doklam Plateau on their shared border with Bhutan. The two-month standoff had raised fears of a wider conflict between the Asian giants who fought a brief border war in 1962.
Moreover, India is strongly opposed to an economic corridor that China is building in Pakistan that runs through disputed Kashmir as part of the Belt and Road initiative.
“The timing of this meeting is critical because the relationship between China and India has been seriously damaged by the border issue this year,” said Yang Jin, an expert on Russian studies from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told China’s state newspaper Global Times.
“It is essential for these three major non-Western powers to make joint efforts to minimise the damage.”
India was the only country that stayed away from a May summit hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping to promote the plan to build railways, ports and power grids in a modern-day recreation of the Silk Road.
“That’s why this tripartite ministerial meeting is an important platform. Both Beijing and New Delhi hope Moscow can play the role of mediator,” added Yang.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said New Delhi should not let political problems deter it from joining the project, involving billions of dollars of investment, and benefiting from it.
Lavrov was speaking in the Indian capital after a three-way meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at which, he said, India’s reservations over the Chinese project were discussed.
“I know India has problems, we discussed it today, with the concept of One Belt and One Road, but the specific problem in this regard should not make everything else conditional to resolving political issues,” he said.
Russia, all the countries in central Asia, and European nations had signed up to the Chinese project to boost economic cooperation, he said.
“Those are the facts,” he said. “India, I am 100 percent convinced, has enough very smart diplomats and politicians to find a way which would allow you to benefit from this process.”
The comments by Russia, India’s former Cold War ally, reflected the differences within the trilateral grouping formed 15 years ago to challenge US-led dominance of global affairs.
But substantial differences between India and China, mainly over long-standing border disputes, have snuffed out prospects of any real cooperation among the three.
India, in addition, has drawn closer to the United States in recent years, buying weapons worth billions of dollars to replace its largely Soviet-origin military.
“China, Russia and India are facing different threats from different terrorist groups in their respective regions,” said Hu Zhiyong from the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences as quoted by the Global Times.
“In principle, counter-terrorism is the best area for cooperation. Compared to other areas, they have few differences on counter-terrorism.”
Additional reporting by Reuters