Defence

Growing Russia-India-China Tensions: Splits in the RIC Strategic Triangle?

India’s Minister of External Affairs Dr. S Jaishankar will be heading to Russia later in the month for a ministerial-level trilateral meeting among three Eurasian powers of the RIC group: Russia, India and China (RIC). The meeting, to be held in Sochi on March 22-24, is meant to take stock of major geopolitical developments affecting the Indo-Pacific region.

According to reports, the meeting will possibly discuss the recently-concluded Afghanistan peace deal, the return of the Quad (quadrilateral security dialogue involving Australia, India, Japan and the United States), the Indo-Pacific concept and the implications of the end of the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty for the region. The last RIC leaders meeting took place on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Osaka in July 2019, just after another trilateral between three democracies – Japan, America, and India (JAI).

RIC came together as a strategic triangle in the late 1990s under the mentorship of Yevgeny Primakov as “a counterbalance to the Western alliance.” The Russian goal was the “end[ing] its foreign policy guided by the US,” and rebuilding old partnerships with countries like India nurturing relatively newer friendships such as with China.

While this may have fitted at least partially with India’s goals in those years, it is unclear if this fits with Indian objectives now as New Delhi increases its strategic engagements with the United States and American allies. Indeed, India’s growing strategic partnership with the United States, Japan, and Australia conflicts with the RIC’s goals and objectives of seeking to undermine Washington’s role in the Indo-Pacific.

Washington’s support to India on a number of critical issues, demonstrated most recently when China attempted to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN Security Council, is important. In fact, it is the rise of China that is at the front and center of many of India’s strategic engagements.

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