India seeks to mend ties with China

India seeks to mend ties with China

India's "quad" initiative with the US, Japan and Australia to contain China in the Indo-Pacific region is likely to remain low-profile for sometime now, as it seeks to mend ties with the communist country and add fresh momentum to its relations with Russia.

New Delhi may not opt out of the "quad", but it is likely to avoid any high-visibility initiative with the US, Japan and Australia in the Indo-Pacific region.

India has of late once again rejected a proposal to invite the Royal Australian Navy to join the Malabar Exercise, an annual war drill by the Indian Navy, US Navy and Japan Maritime Self Defence Force, ostensibly to avert projecting it as an attempt to flex military muscle to browbeat China.

The Malabar 2018 is likely to be held off Guam in the western Pacific next month.

India is also unlikely to join the US, Japan and Australia for any major diplomatic initiative within the four-nation framework, let alone elevating it to the level of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her counterparts, sources told DH.

India, US, Japan and Australia had last year re-launched the quad initiative for consultation on the Indo-Pacific region  —  a move, which was aimed at countering China's moves to spread its geo-strategic influence in the region and beyond, particularly through its controversial Belt-and-Road Initiative.

Senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs had represented India in the inaugural "quad" meeting at Manila in November 2017 with their counterparts from the US, Japan and Australia.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an "informal summit" with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in central China on April 27 and 28 in order to mend ties, which had hit a new low with the 72-day military face-off between the Indian Army and People's Liberation Army of China at Doklam in western Bhutan.

He is now set to hold another "informal summit" with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Modi and Putin will hold the "informal summit" at Sochi on the coast of Black Sea on May 21  —  almost four months ahead of the regular annual summit they are expected to hold in India.

Moscow, however, frowned upon the "quad" initiative by India, US, Japan and Australia and rather called for greater cooperation within the Russia-India-China format.

New Delhi's move to join the "quad" also drew flak from some of the Southeast Asian nations.

Modi-Putin "informal summit" is expected to add new momentum in New Delhi's decades-old relations with Moscow, which have of late come under stress for several reasons – India's growing ties with the US, including in the fields of defence and nuclear cooperation, Russia's move to build closer ties with Pakistan in response, India-US strategic convergence in Indo-Pacific and Russia's closer ties with China.

While the prospects of Russia-China-Pakistan axis already caused unease in New Delhi, India's ties with Russia is likely to face a new challenge over the growing acrimony between Moscow and the West.

Modi's back-to-back "informal summits" with Xi and Putin indicated a move by New Delhi to rebalance its engagements with the big powers.