External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee must be pleased with the discussions he had with his Russian and Chinese counterparts at the trilateral meeting in Harbin, China. Not that the talks achieved anything spectacular. Going by the joint statement issued, the summit highlighted usual concerns like terrorism, reaffirmation of the UN’s role in global affairs, and stability in Asia. What is significant from India’s point of view, however, is the apparent willingness of Moscow and Beijing to support New Delhi’s quest for “a greater role in the UN”. While this may not amount to open backing for India’s claim for permanent membership in a revamped UN Security Council, it is still a remarkable gesture from Beijing that had so far refused to consider a seat for New Delhi at the UN high table.
Even more significant, perhaps, is China’s apparent willingness to see the thorny Sino-Indian border issue finally pick up some steam. This is clear from Mr Mukherjee’s statement at the end of his talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi that both sides have decided to establish a working group for resolving the boundary issue. It is because of past armed conflicts and unsettled boundary disputes that China continues to figure in Indian threat perceptions — and vice versa. It is inarguable that China and Russia are very important in New Delhi’s strategic calculus if India is to emerge a global power. The three countries have many common interests (accounting for 40 per cent of the world’s population, a fifth of its economy, and more than half of its nuclear warheads) and share concerns (like those relating to Islamic terrorism). Russia needs the markets of China and India just as India needs the great energy resources of Russia.
Moscow has been increasingly assertive on the world stage under President Vladimir Putin, who is using Russia’s oil-fuelled economic growth to restore confidence and some of the clout it lost when the Soviet Union collapsed. There is no mistaking the potential of the collective strength of these countries to bring sense and stability to the international order.