Geopolitical and economic factors and the re-energised relationship between the U.S. and India are the drivers of change in the trilateral relationship between India, Russia and China. The cumulative impact of these two trends points to a new, emerging configuration of the triangular relationship
The cumulative impact of these two trends points to a new, emerging configuration of the triangular relationship between India, Russia and China. Going forward, Russia-China ties might become the strongest side of the triangle. From India’s standpoint, this is historically unprecedented. New Delhi’s strategic ties with Moscow first took shape in the late 1950s. The backcloth to the blossoming of this relationship was provided by India’s deteriorating relationship with China owing to the disputed boundary. At the same time, ideological and strategic ties between Moscow and Beijing were coming apart. Although the Russians played an ambivalent role during the war of 1962, Indo-Soviet ties, especially in defence, continued to tighten.
The strategic picture now is rather different. Discussions in the recent trilateral meeting underscored the complexities that will confront India. The joint statement issued in Beijing makes the usual noises about the desirability of a multipolar world. Yet, several points need to be unpacked. The statement calls for a security architecture in Asia that must be “open, inclusive, indivisible and transparent”. The use of “indivisible” is interesting. This refers to the American “pivot” and attempts at rallying its allies. By contrast, the India-U.S. statement supports — at least rhetorically — the U.S.-led efforts. The Chinese and Russians have clearly taken note.