The View from India | Bilateral troubles at a multilateral forum

Understand international affairs from the Indian perspective with View from India

Updated - May 09, 2023 06:15 pm IST

Published - May 08, 2023 01:00 pm IST

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign ministers’ meeting venue  in Goa.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign ministers’ meeting venue in Goa. | Photo Credit: Reuters

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India last week hosted a meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Ministers in Goa, which was marked by both the quest of the multilateral organisation to deepen economic cooperation and bilateral tensions between its prominent members. The meeting, a prelude to the SCO summit to be held in New Delhi in July, took place amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the former’s invasion of Ukraine and disruption in global payment systems due to the West’s sanctions on Moscow. The Foreign Ministers meeting agreed to strengthen cooperation in a number of areas, including economic and technological spheres. India’s proposals on making English an additional official language to Russian and Chinese at the SCO, and setting up working groups on innovation, start-ups and traditional medicines are being discussed, New Delhi said. But tensions between India and Pakistan and frosty ties between India and China over border problems overshadowed the meeting.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar welcomes Foreign Minister of China Qin Gang at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting, in Goa

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar welcomes Foreign Minister of China Qin Gang at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting, in Goa | Photo Credit: PTI

India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar held bilateral talks with China’s Qin Gang and Russia’s Sergei Lavrov, but not with Pakistan’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. “A detailed discussion with State Councillor and FM Qin Gang of China on our bilateral relationship. [The] focus remains on resolving outstanding issues and ensuring peace and tranquillity in the border areas. [We] also discussed SCO, G20 and BRICS,” he tweeted after meeting his Chinese counterpart. He also said he had held a “comprehensive review” of the bilateral, global and multilateral cooperation between India and Russia with Mr. Lavrov. But Mr. Jaishankar, a former diplomat, was blunt in his attacks on Mr. Zardari, who came to India a few days after the Poonch attack in which five Indian soldiers were killed. “As a Foreign Minister of an SCO member state, Mr. Bhutto Zardari was treated accordingly. As a promoter, justifier and spokesperson of a terrorism industry which is the mainstay of Pakistan, his positions were called out and countered including at the SCO meeting itself,” the EAM said.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari | Photo Credit: AP

In an interview with The Hindu’s Suhasini Haidar, Mr. Bhutto Zardari said India’s decision to reorganise Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019 has made it “difficult” for those in Pakistan who advocated engagement in the past. “There is genuine willingness on the Pakistan side, to address all issues and resolve all issues through dialogue. But the actions on August 5 really slammed the door shut on that process,” he said. “We would like India, the Indian government to create an environment conducive to talks and as soon as we return to the status quo of August 4 2019, I believe we can engage in a meaningful dialogue.”

In his talks with the Indian EAM, China’s Foreign Minister Qin said the India China border “is generally stable”, according to a statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. “The two sides should continue to implement the important consensus between the leaders of the two countries, consolidate the achievements made, strictly abide by the relevant agreements and protocols, promote further cooling and easing of the border situation, and maintain sustainable peace and tranquillity in the border area,” it read.

Drones over the Kremlin

A ‘No Drone Zone’ sign is pictured in front of the Russian national flag atop the Federation Council building, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament, in central Moscow.

A ‘No Drone Zone’ sign is pictured in front of the Russian national flag atop the Federation Council building, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament, in central Moscow. | Photo Credit: AFP

On Wednesday, Russia claimed that it had shot down drones over the Senate Palace of the Kremlin complex in Moscow. Russian authorities said the drones were sent by Ukraine, on directions of the U.S. targeting President Vladimir Putin. Kyiv insisted that it had nothing to do with the attack, while the White House called the Russian allegations a lie. But in recent weeks, drone attacks have escalated inside Russia proper. Ukraine’s standard position is that it had no role in such attacks, but the President Zelesnky’s advisor Mikhail Podolyak had said earlier this year “escalation in the Russian domestic market will be inevitable” and that “in particular, cities that are “pampered” and “lazy” and thought they lived in a different reality, will be affected. Such cities as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg”. The Washington Post had reported last month, citing a leaked classified intelligence document, that Ukraine had planned to attack Moscow on February 24, the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion, which was put off “at Washington’s request”. Mr. Putin’s regime still calls the invasion “a special military operation”. For months, he tried to insulate the ordinary Russians (at least those whose families were spared from mobilisation) from the effects of the war. But as Ukrainian attacks inside Russia escalate, this is no longer possible. Ksenia Kondratieva reports from Moscow that the war is coming for Mr. Putin.

The Top Five

1. What are the amendments to China’s anti-espionage law?

The amendments come amid a string of high-profile cases involving journalists, foreign executives, as well as international companies in China, who have come under the lens of authorities on national security grounds, explains Ananth Krishnan.

2. The LAC crisis and the danger of losing without fighting

India will have to wrest the initiative from China as far as the border crisis is concerned or else things will happen only at a time and place of Beijing’s choosing, writes Sushant Singh.

3. India leads ‘Laundromat’ countries buying Russian crude and selling oil products to Europe

Despite sanctions on Russian oil, European countries increase intake of products from India, China, Turkey, UAE and Singapore that are purchasing increased amounts of Russian oil, writes Suhasini Haidar

4. The horizon for India beyond the G-20, SCO summits

New Delhi needs to tone down the high expectations that are being generated of reaping a rich dividend from helming the G-20 and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, writes M.K. Narayanan.

5. Ancient tradition met modernity as King Charles III takes the throne

The constitutional monarch formally ascended the throne at the age of 74, as titular head of the U.K. and 14 former commonwealth countries; Rishi Sunak gave a reading from the Bible at the service, writes Sriram Lakshman.

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