Russia launches behind-the-scenes diplomacy to defuse Ladakh tensions

A Russia has launched an energetic behind-the-scenes effort to defuse military tensions between India and China, ahead of hosting a trilateral RIC video conference, which includes External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on Tuesday.

Russia’s diplomatic activism began on June 17, when Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov discussed regional security, “including developments on the Line of Actual Control on the border between India and China in the Himalayas,” with Indian ambassador to Russia, D. Bala Venkatesh Varma. The meeting took place in the backdrop of the clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan valley, in which 20 Indian and an undeclared number of Chinese troops were killed.

The Russian foreign ministry did not give any further details about the conversation, but Russian diplomatic sources told The Hindu that Moscow has “high stakes” at a global level, in the early resolution of tensions between the two Himalayan neighbours.

“Good relations between India and China are central to the rise of Eurasia and the emergence of a multipolar world order, which is not dominated by a single pole,” the diplomat said. He pointed to the “centrality” of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which includes India, Pakistan, Russia and China as well as most of the Central Asian Republics as the anchor of a “post-west” global system.

“The persistence of tensions between India and China will not only have a huge negative impact on the SCO but also on the rise of the emerging economies under the Brazil Russia India China South Africa (BRICS) grouping,” the source said.

But the diplomat pointed out that Russia would only like to play a constructive behind-the-scenes role, as both India and China were fully capable of resolving their differences.

On Wednesday, Dmitry Peskov, press secretary of Russian President Vladimir Putin said reports from the China-India border were “very alarming”.

“Certainly, we are watching with great attention what is happening on the Chinese-Indian border… But we consider that the two countries are capable of taking necessary steps to prevent such situations in the future and to ensure that there is predictability and stability in the region and that this is a safe region for nations, first of all, China and India,” Mr. Peskov observed.

The Russian side has also spotlighted the importance of the RIC group, amid speculation that meeting of the three foreign ministers was being postponed on account of the ongoing border friction between India and China.

“The existence of the RIC is an indisputable reality, firmly fixed on the world map. As for the current stage of the bilateral cooperation , there are no indications that it might be frozen,” Nikolay Kudashev, Russian ambassador to India Tweeted on June 17.

In a separate Tweet , Mr. Kudashev welcomed “all steps aimed at de-escalation at the LAC, including the conversation between the two FMs (Foreign Ministers) and remain optimistic”.

Regarding the RIC video conference, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday that the three foreign ministers will discuss the global political and financial trends following the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the opportunities to overcome the existing crisis.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had earlier clarified in response to a question on whether the India-China standoff will be discussed at the RIC, that the trilateral format “does not include discussions on bilateral matters”.

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