Russia urges India to line up behind China’s Belt and Road initiative
Russia on Monday suggested that India could benefit by joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) despite New Delhi’s misgivings about the ambitious project to build trade and transport links across Asia.
Speaking at a think tank here after talks with his Chinese and Indian counterparts, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said India’s reservations about the BRI had figured in the trilateral meeting.
“I know India has problems – we discussed it today – with the concept of One Belt, One Road, but the specific problem in this regard should not make everything else conditional to resolving political issues,” he told an audience that included National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and foreign secretary S Jaishankar.
Lavrov noted that India was a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), whose other others, including Russia, have signed up for the BRI.
“Those are the facts,” he said. “India, I am 100% convinced, has enough very smart diplomats and politicians to find a way which would allow you to benefit from this process and at the same time not to sacrifice your position.”
India is opposed to the BRI because a key component, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. It stayed away from a meeting hosted by President Xi Jinping in Beijing in May to promote the BRI.
Lavrov also said a sustainable security architecture cannot be achieved in the Asia-Pacific region with “closed bloc arrangements” – an apparent reference to Russia’s reservations about the “Quad”, a grouping comprising India, Australia, Japan and the US.
He was also critical of the US policy on Afghanistan and indicated that the continued use of force against those who do not cooperate would not work.
Ahead of the trilateral talks, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj held separate meetings with Lavrov and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi to discuss a host of bilateral and global issues.
Sources said contentious issues such as the Doklam standoff, China’s opposition to India’s bid to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the blocking of the designation of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar didn’t figure in the meeting between Swaraj and Wang.
There was “convergence of views”, the sources said, adding Wang had called for “strategic communications” to build better relations. Swaraj responded by saying the two sides shouldn’t allow their differences to define relations. She also acknowledged that there had been a “difficult phase” in bilateral ties and India’s sensitivities and concerns should be respected, the sources added.
Swaraj referred to her bilateral talks with her Chinese counterpart at the press interaction and said: “Foreign minister Wang Yi and I agreed that we should further strengthen our mutual trust to develop better understanding between the two sides. And it will be better to meet again and without agenda, which will help us to expand our mutual understanding.”
The situation in the Middle East and Afghanistan and bilateral trade figured in the meeting between Lavrov and Swaraj, the sources said.