China has turned down a Russian effort to bring defence ministers of India, Russia and China on one platform in Moscow, fuelling speculation in New Delhi that this has been done keeping Pakistan sensitivities in mind.
The refusal was officially communicated last week, which was also the time the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh took off despite strong Chinese protests.
The trilateral meeting was to take place on April 25, a day ahead of the Moscow Conference on International Security. Defence minister Arun Jaitley is scheduled to visit the security meet. Russia was keen that as a strategic outreach the defence ministers of the three countries should do a trilateral to explore an architecture of security cooperation.
India agreed after examining the proposal in great detail, particularly keeping in mind Russia’s strong ownership of the idea. However, Moscow later conveyed to New Delhi that Beijing has regretted from participating in the initiative. While no specific reason was given, the speculation is that China did not want to signal that it was in anyway trying to undermine its special defence relationship with Pakistan by entering into an arrangement with Russia and India.
Beijing has so far not conveyed any direct message to India on this subject. The Russian diplomatic rationale flows from the fact that there already exists a RIC (Russia-India-China) forum among the foreign ministers.
In that context, officials told ET, Russia thought it to be a logical extension in trying to construct a security matrix outside US-led mechanisms.
India is already part of many US-led strategic trilateral forums. The more robust examples are US-India-Japan and US-India-Australia, which also have proved to be effective avenues for military cooperation. The trilateral with US and Japan includes a regular conversation on China and its impact on maritime security in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
China had lodged a strong diplomatic protest when US at one point had sought to first form a quadrilateral with India, Japan and Australia. India, it may be noted, has been upset with China blocking Indian membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and literally vetoing efforts at the United Nations to blacklist Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar.