At Russia-India-China Meet, India Talks of Need to Respect Legitimate Interest of Partners

At the trilateral meeting, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov ruled out the possibility of Moscow acting as a mediator between India and China.

New Delhi: With Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi looking on, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar said on Tuesday that recognising the “legitimate interests of partners”, along with respecting international law, is key to building a durable world order.

Jaishankar was speaking at the special foreign minister level meeting of the trilateral group of Russia-India-China (RIC), which was being held through video conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial remarks of the three foreign ministers were televised live, after which they switched to  ‘closed-door’ discussions.

The meeting took place in the backdrop of ongoing border tensions between India and China, which has resulted in the first army casualties in 45 years.

Since the special meeting was held to mark 75 years of the victory over the Axis powers, Jaishankar began by reminding both Russia and China that 2.3 million Indian troops had helped the Allies win the Second World War.

“We helped keep key supply lines open to both your countries, one through the Persian corridor and the other over the Himalayan hump. If Indian personnel were conferred the Order of the Red Star, the medical mission led by Dr. Kotnis was a legend in China. So tomorrow, when our military contingent marches through the Red Square, it would be an affirmation of the difference that we made,” he said.

India has sent a 75-member tri-service contingent to take part in the victory parade in Moscow on Wednesday. Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh will be witnessing the parade. His Chinese counterpart will also be present.

Also read: Jaishankar to Take Part in Russia-India-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on June 23

While the trilateral meeting forecloses the possibility of raising the tensions since bilateral matters are not discussed, Jaishankar obliquely referred to the responsibilities of the “leading voices of the world”, with one of them being to recognise the “legitimate interests” of partners.

“…the challenge today is not just one of concepts and norms, but equally of their practice. The leading voices of the world must be exemplars in every way. Respecting international law, recognising the legitimate interests of partners, supporting multilateralism and promoting common good are the only way of building a durable world order,” he said.

In his statement, the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi also did not make any direct allusions to the bilateral friction with India.

However, as per the Chinese foreign ministry readout, Wang Yi also made a oblique reference, similar to Jaishankar, that the three countries should handle sensitive issues in bilateral relations properly.

“Wang Yi stressed that China, Russia and India, as large countries that adhere to strategic autonomy, should grasp the overall cooperative situation of the three countries as partners and opportunities for each other, and, starting from the common interests of helping the three countries to develop and revitalise and safeguard world peace, correctly treat and properly handle the sensitive factors existing in bilateral relations and safeguard the overall situation of mutual relations,” said the foreign ministry’s press release, according to a rough translation of the statement.

Also read: Modi’s ‘No Intrusion’ by China Claim Contradicts India’s Stand, Raises Multiple Questions

The Chinese foreign minister also said that he would back Russia’s proposal to hold the first meeting of the defence chiefs of the three countries.

The Indian foreign minister noted further in his remarks that India had not got its due in the new global order after the end of WWII due to the “political circumstances of that era”, which had remained uncorrected for the last 75 years.

“Therefore, on this momentous occasion, it is important for the world to realise both the contribution that India made and the need to rectify the past,” he added. Jaishankar hoped that the three countries would “also now converge on the value of reformed multilateralism”.

Russia has publicly supported India’s aspirations to be a permanent member of a reformed and expanded United Nations Security Council. This was repeated by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov at his post-summit press conference on Tuesday. However, China has never backed India’s demand, with only an anodyne phrase that it supports India’s larger role in the United Nations.

Also read: India and China Need to Dial Back the Tension

Speaking to the media, the Russian foreign minister ruled out the possibility of Moscow acting as a mediator between India and China.

“I see no reason that Russia or anyone else would be imposing their services on India and china in order to solve their own problems,” he said.

Lavrov noted that Russia never sought to be a go-between. “It’s okay to have problem with neighbours or with other countries. There is nothing wrong with that. I don’t think they need any outside help”.

He also sought to point out that India and China have had a long and deep relationship. I can tell you that their relations have gone a long way.. Over the last couple of years, they have made a lot of progress. A few years ago, India and China had a meeting, where they said that relationship is strategic partnership. I think that’s very telling,” added Lavrov.