In response to a possible quadrilateral dialogue between Japan, India, the US and Australia and growing ties between the first three, aimed at counterbalancing China’s aggressive maritime expansion, Russia here today said that the concept in the Indo-Pacific rather should be of an “open regional architecture where there is space for everyone”.
These remarks were made by the Russian ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev. Russia is also strengthening its military ties, including conducting military exercises, with India’s problematic neighbour, Pakistan. To this the Russian ambassador said that Russia’s ties with Pakistan and India cannot be “equalised” and its strategic relations with India is second to no other nation.
On the sidelines of a press briefing on the recently concluded first Indo-Russia tri-services exercise, Indra-2017, Kudashev while responding to a question on India’s emerging defence partnership with Japan, the Malabar naval exercise and Russia’s views on it said, “I would say we welcome a larger bloc with an open regional architecture, where there would be space for all and space for trust and confidence. Naturally, India, Russia and Japan included.”
On being asked whether Russia would be interested in joining the recently proposed quadrilateral dialogue, he said that different “combinations” are possible and in Asia there is a need for international cooperation and space for everyone. Such a concept of cooperation, he says, will be raised at the East Asia Summit- a forum for strategic dialogue and cooperation between countries of the Asia-Pacific region- to be held in the Philippines in November. India, China, Russia, Japan, Australia and the US are members of the summit.
Last month, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in a media interview had said that Japan will propose a top-level dialogue with the US, India and Australia. It will be for promoting free trade and defence cooperation from the South China Sea, across the Indian Ocean and up to Africa. It is aimed at counteracting China’s growing assertiveness under its Belt and Road initiative. India responded by saying that it is “open to working with like-minded countries on issues that advances its interests”.
Meanwhile, in response to a question on Russia’s military exercise with Pakistan, Kudashev said, “I don’t see an opportunity to equalise relations between Russia and Pakistan and Russia and India. Our partnership with India is second to no one. We have normal interstate relations with Pakistan. The purpose of the drills is counter-terrorism in nature and supports elements in Pakistan and to counter the menace. We should look at a common denominator which is fighting terror.”
In September last year, Russia and Pakistan held their first ever joint exercise called “Druzhba 2016” (Friendship 2016). This year again, the special forces of Russia and Pakistan conducted a joint counter-terrorism exercise in the Mineralnye Vody region in Russia. Russia’s ties with Pakistan has become stronger since the two signed a military cooperation agreement in 2014. In 2015, the two sides finalised a deal for four Mi-35 attack helicopters for Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador also said that the Indra exercise between Russian and Indian armed forces could involve more advanced weaponry in the future. More than 900 Indian defence services personnel participated in Indra-2017 with the Russian defence forces from October 19 to 29.
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