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Russia-India-China trilateral meet: Modi to flaunt independent foreign policy

The forthcoming edition of Russia-India-China (RIC) foreign minister level trilateral meet in Delhi on December 11, aimed at removing any misgivings about India's pro-West tilt, would provide an opportunity to showcase the Modi government's independent foreign policy approach.

The platform of the three major BRICS powers is aimed at facilitating common position on key global challenges -- radical ideas, terror threats, Afghanistan and West Asia. India is eyeing a strong commitment from the RIC states against terror groups active in South Asia similar to the formulation in the last BRICS Summit.

The RIC meet after BRICS will be yet another forum for India to interact with China on a way forward in bilateral relations in the post-Doklam era and serious differences over connectivity initiatives primarily OBOR. The Sino-Pak nexus that safeguards key anti-India terror masterminds is also key irritant in Sino-Indian ties.

Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, who will be first minister from Beijing to visit India after the Doklam episode, will discuss all major issues in their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of RIC with an eye to take forward bilateral ties through confidence building measures (CBM).

The Chinese foreign minister's visit for RIC will be followed by Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi's possible trip to Delhi in the third week of December for boundary talks with Indian NSA and Special Representative.

Simultaneously, coupled with RIC -- which will be attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov -- Delhi and Moscow will be engaged in a series of consultations in December and January beginning this week to expand bilateral economic & strategic agenda. Lavrov's visit is being preceded by his deputy on Wednesday and will be followed by Russian deputy PM on December 23. Lavrov and Swaraj will review bilateral ties at their separate meetings.

Yet another senior minister from Moscow will be here in January as Delhi pushes its Eurasian agenda through connectivity initiatives – INSTC & Chabahar Port. SCO membership has allowed India an entry as a key player into the geopolitics of Eurasian region.

Simultaneously Eurasian Economic Union membership will also enable India to realise the untapped economic potential in the region where China has made significant inroads.

“India’s FTA with the Eurasian Economic Union can be a gamechanger for Delhi to further its economic agenda in the region. India and Russia need to discuss China’s role in Eurasia including any misgiving that Delhi has over OBOR in Eurasia,” Sergey Yurievich Glazyev, adviser to President Vladimir Putin, currently in India, told ET.

However, the tricky issues in RIC will be on any mention of OBOR and South China Sea disputes in the groupings joint communique. India is opposed to OBOR as it not only passes through PoK but its model of financing is creating a debt burden and its end goal is not clear. The three countries are, however, expected to have a common position on Syrian situation and the Ukraine question.

The significance of the RIC lies in the fact that unlike some of the other trilateral and quadrilaterals there is a joint communique and not separate statements by the three countries.

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