Beyond rhetoric

SECOND EDIT

The ninth Russia-India-China (RIC) foreign ministers’ meeting at Bangalore has concluded with the three countries resolving to push for a greater regional role in stabilising the situation in war-torn Afghanistan. They have signaled their continuing commitment to remaining engaged in Afghanistan. This commitment comes at a time when several western countries are looking for exit strategies or ways to downsize their role in Afghanistan. By stressing the need for continued engagement in Afghanistan, the trilateral grouping has urged these countries to rethink their positions. Their call for a greater regional say in the quest for a solution to the Afghan problem is a reminder to the US to move away from its current unilateral approach. Not only do countries like India, Russia and China have stakes in a peaceful Afghanistan but also, they have potential, resources and strengths that could be usefully tapped.

The joint approach on Afghanistan, evident at the Bangalore meet is heartening. However, there are important differences that could undermine this shared position. The situation in Afghanistan is closely linked to Pakistan’s tackling of terrorism being nurtured on its soil. While Russia and India have raised their concern over Pakistan’s lacklustre performance in this regard, China has been silent. At the Bangalore meeting too, China seems to have been reluctant to call on Pakistan to do more on fighting terrorism. The Bangalore resolution therefore refrained from naming Pakistan and instead called on ‘all concerned’ to implement UN resolutions on tackling terrorism. It’s time Beijing recognised that Islamabad’s reluctance to tackle terrorism is severely undermining global security, with implications for its Xinjiang province.

As in previous RIC meetings, this one was also was rich in co-operative rhetoric. It is time the grouping put its lofty words into action. It has achieved little substantial outside these meetings. RIC remains a junior player in global developments as it is riven with internal suspicions and rivalries. These would need to be put aside if RIC should be taken seriously. The US is able to persist with unilateral action on almost every global issue because Russia, India and China have rarely joined forces to rein Washington in. Aspiring for a multi-polar world and supporting multi-lateral approaches to conflict resolution is not enough. Russia, India and China must act together to achieve it.

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