New Delhi: Speaking yet again on the Indo-Pacific vision, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday in response to a question recalled his conversation with his “good friend” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. He said during the talks, “Our Indian colleagues fully understand that some countries would like to use the Indo-Pacific concept in a manner which is not inclusive and is confrontational”.
Pointing out Russia’s concerns on Indo-Pacific vision especially on it “undermining the central role of ASEAN in the Asia-Pacific region”, he explained that, “I know that India is not going to move this Indo-Pacific cooperation in a way which would be not positive and constructive.” Indo-Pacific vision is backed by India and Washington, along with other countries like Japan and Australia. The Chinese are suspicious of it, believing it is aimed at encircling it.
Highlighting the absence of no common Indo-Pacific vision, the Russian Foreign Minister said, “We don’t believe that it is just a terminological change” because “if you take it literally, from the geographical point of view, then “Indo” means all littoral states of the Indian Ocean, but East Africa, we are told, is not included in the Indo-Pacific strategy. The Persian Gulf, which is a part of the Indian Ocean, is not included in the Indo-Pacific strategy” but “what is included, as the American sponsors of this concept say repeatedly, is the “Quad–India, Australia, Japan and USA”.
What is interesting, that he pointed out to his previous statement on Indo-Pacific, clarifying, “some of my previous statements on this issue have been widely discussed in India, by media which are not very friendly towards the Indian Government, but we don’t want any misunderstanding with our friends – the Indian people.” He had in December said, that “India is currently an object of the Western countries’ persistent, aggressive and devious policy” on the “anti-China games by promoting Indo-Pacific strategies”, something that was seen as harsh criticism.
While he did reiterate Russian views on the Indo-Pacific, he reaffirmed the long-standing Moscow-New Delhi ties. Calling India, “very close, very strategic, very special, and very privileged partner”, Lavrov said, “take the spheres of economy, innovation, military-technical and High-Tech cooperation. India is one of our closest partners on all these issues.”
India and Russia have a Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership. Russia and India have an annual summit-level mechanism that alternates between the 2 countries. The only other country with which India shares this mechanism is Japan.
He made remarks on the current India China standoff as well, saying, “we are doing the utmost to make sure that India and China, our two great friends and brothers, live in peace with each other.” All the 3 countries are part of the BRICS, SCO and RIC groupings. While Russia was the host of RIC or Russia, India and China grouping in 2020, this year India will be hosting meetings of the grouping. He also assured that “in no way our closest cooperation and partnership with India is going to be affected” vis a vis Moscow’s ties with China.