Russian Foreign Minister criticises US-led Indo-Pacific approach, calls it divisive

He also said Russia was "very concerned" over what is happening in Persian Gulf and that it was pushing for collective security in the region

The Russian minister also slammed the US for what he called disregarding international rules and norms while selectively talking about rules-based global order for its self interests. (Reuters Photo)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday strongly criticised the US-led Indo-Pacific initiative, calling it a "divisive approach" to disrupt existing regional structures and contain China's influence in the region.

In an address at the Raisina Dialogue, Lavrov also strongly backed India and Brazil's bid for a permanent membership in the UN Security Council, and asserted that New Delhi was among the new centres of global influence.

The Russian minister also slammed the US for what he called disregarding international rules and norms while selectively talking about rules-based global order for its self interests.

Delving into key global issues, Lavrov referred to the US-backed Indo-Pacific strategy and said it was an attempt to "reconfigure the existing structures" and to move away from the ASEAN-centric concensus for the region.

"It is an attempt to seek forms of interactions to something which would be divisive", he said in the presence of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and foreign ministers as well as diplomats from around 40 countries.

"A new concept was created called Indo-Pacific strategy, initiated firstly by the US, Australia, Japan...when we asked the initiators about the difference between Indo-Pacific strategies and ASEAN-pacific regional cooperation, they said Indo-Pacific is more open, more democratic," Lavrov said.

"If you look at it closely, it is not at all the case," he added.

In November 2017, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending "Quad" Coalition to develop a new strategy with an aim to contain China's growing influence and develop a new strategy for keeping the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.

In his address, Jaishankar said India's approach is not to be disruptive. Though Jaishankar did not elaborate, the remark is seen in the context of the Indo-pacific debate.

The 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is considered one of the most influential groupings in the Indo-Pacific region.

China has been fast expanding military and economic influence in the Indo-Pacific region, triggering concern in various countries in the region and beyond.

"We appreciate the position of ASEAN and India. The Indo-Pacific strategy should not be discussed in a way which would imply somebody should be contained by this cooperation," the Russian Foreign Minister said.

"Why call it Indo-Pacific --- the answer is to contain China. The Indian friends are smart enough to understand the trap. We should not be divisive," he said.

Lavrov further said: "We have to be careful with the terminology which looks benign but might be something else.

Talking about special privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India, Lavrov said Moscow wants to develop such relationship with all countries of the region and hoped New Delhi would also promote the same principle.

Lavrov said Iran has proposed a "non-aggression pact" for the Gulf countries, and Russia feels that P5 countries as well as European Union should participate in it.

Taking potshots at western powers, the Russian leader said these countries often talk about rules-based world order but "do not follow it".

"We believe that the equitable and democratic world order should be based not only on balance of brutal force rather should be built as a concept of development," he said.

On the Eurasian economic project, Lavrov said it was all about harmonising various regional groups in the Eurasian Economic Union.

On India, he said it is one of the centres of economic might and financial powers.

"It is important to note that no serious matter with global dimension is considered without these new centres of influence" he said and asserted that formation of blocs like G-20 has sent a signal that a handful of countries cannot decide the world's power matrix.

"We must appropriately handle global issues which are transnational such as terrorism, drug trafficking, food security, border security, danger of weaponising outer space, cyber space," he said. 

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