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Jaishankar to head for Sochi for talks with Chinese and Russian counterparts

Sochi connect: Narendra Modi meeting Vladimir Putin in the Russian resort town in May 2018.   | Photo Credit: PTI

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is set to visit Sochi later this month for talks with his Chinese and Russian counterparts Wang Yi and Sergey Lavrov, which could range from the situation in Afghanistan to the danger to international security posed by the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

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The three diplomats are expected to hold two-day parleys in the Russian resort city, from March 22 under the Russian India China (RIC) banner, highly placed sources told The Hindu.

“The trio is expected to brainstorm and seek convergence on a Eurasian perspective on global events,” the sources said.

The RIC has emerged as an important forum, which has been evolving in recent years among the three countries, which are also members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) — a grouping of emerging economies.

The leaders of the three countries have now met on two previous occasions — on the sidelines of G-20 summits — raising the forum’s profile. The RIC also provides an opening for regular meetings of the National Security Advisers in the trilateral format.

The sources pointed out that the meeting in Sochi would have an open-ended agenda, but three issues could stand out.

The trio is expected to exchange notes on Afghanistan, including last month’s deal in Doha, between the U.S. and the Taliban which details a timetable for the withdrawal of the American forces from the strife-torn nation, linked to Taliban’s commitment to deny sanctuaries to international terror groups such as the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda. It also calls for the start of an intra-Afghan dialogue, starting with a meeting on March 10 in Oslo.

Both Russia and China are strong advocates of a ‘regional’ solution of peace in Afghanistan, which, besides India, also includes Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics (CARS). Analysts say the Afghanistan Contact Group of the SCO, which has India, Pakistan, China, Russia and CARS as members, could be tapped as the prime opening for a strong Eurasia-led initiative on Afghanistan.

The sources said the RIC forum converges on an “Aghan-led and Afghan owned” solution of the conflict, but the devil is in the detail. China is fully engaging the Taliban and the Afghan government to end the civil war. “China will continue to be a supporter, mediator and facilitator of the Afghan peace and reconciliation process and play a constructive role on the basis of respecting the wishes of all parties in Afghanistan,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said after the signing of the Doha accord.

Unlike Beijing, Russia has been selectively engaging the Taliban, especially those who are ‘nationalistic’ and do not necessarily take their cue from Islamabad. India is yet to take a call on any future engagement with the Taliban or its factions, though the presence of the Indian envoy as observer in Doha could signal a rethink.

During the meeting in Sochi, the Chinese and the Russians are expected to raise questions about India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific, especially the future of the security-oriented Quad — the India, Japan, U.S. and Australia cluster. Diplomatic sources say Washington, Tokyo and Canberra want Australia’s inclusion in the Malabar naval exercises, scheduled later this year, with a formal announcement possibly being made during Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s proposed visit to New Delhi in May. But government sources say India has been non-committal and has, so far, been disinclined to accommodate the expansion of the annual exercise.

The three Ministers are also expected to discuss the likely proliferation of tactical nuclear weapons following the collapse of the INF treaty, which had, so far, helped contain the spread of nuclear tipped missiles between 500-5,500 km range. Both Beijing and Moscow apprehend that the U.S. could now deploy tactical nuclear weapons, even in non-nuclear weapon countries, triggering another round of nuclear arms race, which is likely to engulf India as well.


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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 10:32:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/jaishankar-to-head-for-sochi-for-talks-with-chinese-and-russian-counterparts/article31010739.ece

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