RIC format gains momentum

Salman Khurshid and Sergey Lavrov will be joined by their Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Source: Source: Evgeny Biyatov / RIA Novosti

Salman Khurshid and Sergey Lavrov will be joined by their Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Source: Source: Evgeny Biyatov / RIA Novosti

Manmohan Singh’s successful visits to Russia and China last month has generated optimism that the triangular body will play a key role in Asian affairs and beyond.

The foreign ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC) are meeting in New Delhi on November 10, 2013. As revealed by India’s foreign ministry spokesperson, the agenda of the meeting will be diverse, ranging from issues of terrorism, drug trafficking, Afghanistan, the situation in the Middle East and the future of the group. India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s successful visits to Russia and China last month has generated optimism that the triangular body will play a key role in Asian affairs and beyond.

The spokesperson was quoted by The Economic Times as saying: “Concerns relating to terrorism, drug trafficking and cooperation in multilateral fora, in which all the three countries participate will be discussed among the key global and regional issues.” The meeting of the three foreign ministers, which will be held just a day before two-day ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting), appears significant because the three countries, which are also members of ASEM, will showcase to about 48 participating countries of Asia and Europe that RIC is emerging in the world scene with increasing prowess. In the media-hype age, the scheduling of the meeting of RIC just before ASEM appears timely. It will perhaps send the message that RIC is no longer an embodiment of sluggishness of the past; rather it is a reflection of growing aspiration of the three countries to shape global order collectively.

The RIC foreign ministers in New Delhi will deliberate on the issue of terrorism. This issue has featured in their meetings in past. They not only have joint declarations on counter terrorism, they have also bilateral mechanisms such as joint exercises to counter the menace. Last month, Indian and Russian forces conducted joint exercises codenamed Indra in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Indian and Chinese forces are presently conducting joint exercises code named ‘hand in hand’ for counter terrorism near the Chinese city of Chengdu.

Afghanistan will be another item of deliberation. The more the countries meet, the more they will be able to develop a common framework to address the conflict. Without going into detail of the conflict, it is important to note that the war-torn country is undergoing one of its tumultuous phases, and the next year will be critical. If the NATO led ISAF forces withdraw as per the declared plan, it is very much possible that the vacuum created by the withdrawal will be filled by the Taliban and their ilk. It will be no surprise if the country slips to the chaos of 1990s, when warlords of various ethnic groups fight and kill each other. The RIC members, which are closer to the country in geographic terms as well as in terms of geopolitical interests, it will be beneficial for the them to work together. In this drive of collectivism, they can bring the regional organizations like Shanghai Cooperation Organization and promote regional peace in a regional framework. Peace in Afghanistan is not only necessary for the country, but also for the whole Eurasia. RIC members realize this imperative, and their meeting in New Delhi will be a step in that direction.

The RIC will also deliberate on the Middle East. Among various issues in the region, Syria will figure prominently. The Indo-Russian joint statement last month has already displayed seriousness of both the countries to address the crisis. The joint statement also expressed Russia’s interest in welcoming India’s participation in the Geneva-2 conference on Syria. Russia and China have from the beginning opposed any military intervention in Syria. The ministers will reiterate the same position and express interest in a peaceful dialogue between the various stakeholders to the conflict. Sadly, in the Syrian opposition the moderate voices have been marginalized, and the space has been occupied by a motley extremist groups. However, the joint resolve of RIC and BRICS for a peaceful resolution has thwarted prospects of military intervention in the country. Their collective emphasis on peaceful process might help change the course of the conflict.

Besides geopolitical and strategic issues, the members will deliberate on coordinating their positions at the forthcoming WTO meeting in Bali. The economic relations between the three countries are on a soundtrack, and their coordination at the WTO will be mutually beneficial. It is reported that in the forthcoming meeting the issue of food subsidies will be raised, which might hamper interests of developing countries. To such a prospect, Indian spokesperson stated, “We are confident that we will be able to forcefully defend our interests and articulate our concerns effectively.”

Dr. Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra is an Indian commentator. His areas of interests include conflict, terrorism, peace and development, South Asia, and strategic aspects of Eurasian politics.

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