Foreign Ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC) on Nov 15 held their 10th trilateral at the Chinese city Wuhan to discuss a host of regional and international issues like counter-terrorism, trade and disaster relief. Though the talks did not lead to any significant decisions, apart from prescribing generalized statements on various global issues, the meeting was important in the sense that next month, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev sand Chinese prime Minister Wen Jiabao will be visiting India.
It is important to note here that since 2000, important Russian leaders have been advocating for what is called a strategic triangle ( “trilateral cooperation”, to use the words of former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, the first leader to propose the idea during his visit to New Delhi in 1998) involving Russia, India and China. Interestingly, the concept of “the Russia-China-India triangle” is usually spoken about whenever a top Russian leader meets his Indian and Chinese counterparts either together or separately with a short interval.
Former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, who also was Indian ambassador in Moscow, makes a lot of sense when he argues that the RIC dialogue may not have as much promise as originally anticipated because “the validity of most of the premises underlying it has been shaken.”
Thus, on September 29, the Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement soon after the Russian President Medvedev’s visit to China (September 26-28), that “issues relating the Russia-India-China (RIC) grouping figured in the talks between Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Russian counterpart President Dmitry Medvedev” and that “the two sides (Russia and China) will continue to strengthen dialogue among China, Russia and India and will make joint efforts to create sound Asia-Pacific and international environments.”
The pattern was set when Putin was the Russian President. Invariably, he held summit meetings with Indian and Chinese heads of government with short intervals. For instance, the idea of Russia-India-China initiative was talked about on the eve of eve of Putin’s visit to India in October 2000, a visit which followed Russia-China summit (between Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin) in July that year at Moscow. In 2002 again the idea was talked about during Putin’s visit to Delhi, which took place immediately after his trip to Beijing; in fact Putin had combined his China and India visits together and landed in Delhi straight from Beijing.
Be that as it may, as far as the trilateral dialogue is concerned, Putin has played an important role in promoting it and it was at his behest that the first trilateral summit involving the three countries took place in St. Petersburg in July 2006. It was argued that Beijing and New Delhi accepted Russia’s proposal to hold trilateral summit because “it was beneficial to boosting the cooperation among the three countries as well as maintaining multipolarity in the world.
Talking about the efficacy of the RIC process, the most obvious point that emerges from the preceding paragraphs is that its real promoter happens to be Russia, which, in turn, seemed to be guided by three developments. First, Russia’s inability to impede the eastward expansion of NATO and its frustration over NATO’s unilateral military action in Kosovo forced Moscow to seek closer strategic understanding with China and India. Russia also found commonality with India and China in the perceived U.S. bid for global hegemony, which was in direct conflict with their preference for a “multipolar world.”