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Russia offers to organise RIC defence ministers’ meet

Russia has proposed to organise a Russia-India-China (RIC) defence ministers’ meet this year, said people aware of the matter--a move that can act as a confidence building measure between New Delhi and Beijing amid their nearly two-month-long border standoff.

The proposal has been put forward by Russia as it holds the current presidency of RIC. The meet is still being planned and no date has been firmed up yet, the persons cited earlier said.

On Thursday, Russian envoy to India Nikolay Kudashev told a select audience that "the Russian presidency in BRICS and SCO in 2020 had to adjust formats of the events, shifting focus on video conferences. Just recently, we had conducted successful BRICS and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) virtual ministerial meetings. Also, on June 23, we had a very constructive RIC Foreign Ministers’ virtual conference, which demonstrated our common desire to further expand the trilateral agenda, including by involving defence ministries’ dialogue".

Russian officials ET spoke with said this CBM would contribute to greater stability in Eurasia. Russia has emerged a key political actor in China-India ties and was involved in quiet diplomacy to salvage RIC Foreign Ministers meet last month after PLA killed 20 Indian Army personnel in the Galwan Valley.

At the June 23 RIC meet, Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar had a subtle but important message for his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. “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 ways of building a durable world order."

ET has learnt that India favours supporting Russia on the greater Eurasian stability while it seeks Moscow's support for its inclusive Indo-Pacific vision.

India is in talks to conclude a free trade agreement (FTA) with Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union that would open a huge market for India. Earlier, Russia had played a key role in India’s entry into the SCO as a member amid China’s dilly-dallying.

Earlier, the Russian government had quietly turned down China's reservation against arms supplies to India as defence minister Rajnath Singh visited Moscow to expedite supplies of key defence platforms, ET has learnt. Moscow, notwithstanding its ties with Beijing, made it clear that it cannot be dictated and it is Russia’s sovereign decision to supply arms to its partners.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent phone call to the Russian president reaffirmed defence partnership, including early supplies of key defence platforms to India. Modi was the first world leader to telephone Putin following the constitutional referendum.

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