Modi-Xi-Putin meet likely besides US-Japan-India talks

Modi-Xi-Putin meet likely besides US-Japan-India talks

PTI file photo

India is likely to do a balancing act in Buenos Aires this week with Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding two trilateral meetings – one with Chinese and Russian presidents and another with his American and Japanese counterparts.


Modi arrived in Buenos Aires on Thursday to attend the G20 summit scheduled to be held in the capital of Argentina on Friday and Saturday. He will hold a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sideline of the summit in addition to a similar trilateral with United States' President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.


New Delhi is keen on Modi's trilateral talks with Xi and Putin in Buenos Aires as it would help strike a balance and send out a message that the other meeting he is scheduled to hold with Trump and Abe should not be seen as a move by India to join US and Japan to contain China, sources told the DH.


The Modi-Xi-Putin talks in the capital of Argentina is going to be the first trilateral meeting by the leaders of the three nations in 12 years. The trilateral engagement among Russia, India and China (RIC) have been led by the Foreign Ministers of the three nations in recent years. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had hosted her counterparts – Sergey Lavrov of Russia and Wang Yi of China – in New Delhi in December 2017 for the last RIC ministerial meet.


Modi will also have a separate bilateral meeting with Xi during his stay in Buenos Aires. This is going to be the fourth meeting between Prime Minister and Chinese President after they had an “informal summit” at Wuhan in central China on April 27 and 28 and agreed on a roadmap to mend the ties, which had hit a new low over the 72-day-long military face-off between the two neighbouring nations in June-August last year.


New Delhi is keen to make it sure that India's engagements with Japan and the US does not send out a hostile message to China and disturb the process of bringing back on track its ties with Beijing.


Modi's separate trilateral meeting with Putin and Xi on the sideline of the G20 summit will also reassure Moscow, which have been frowning over India's growing defence relations and strategic convergence with the US.


Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton already announced that the US President's bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister on the sideline of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires would turn trilateral after sometime as Prime Minister of India would join the two leaders.


The senior diplomats of India, US and Japan had been holding trilateral talks since 2011. It had been elevated to the level of Foreign Ministers in September 2015, when Swaraj had met her the then US and Japanese counterparts in New York, signalling growing synergy in strategic interests of the three nations, particularly in countering hegemonic aspirations of China in Indo-Pacific. She and her counterparts had held the second India-US-Japan trilateral meeting, again in New York in September 2017, shortly after the face-off between Indian Army and Chinese People's Liberation Army in Doklam Plateau came to its end. Both the 2015 and 2017 meetings ended with calls for “freedom of navigation, respect for international law and peaceful resolution of disputes”, thus sending out a tacit message against China's increasing assertiveness in South China Sea in particular and the Indo-Pacific in general. 


India also joined Japan, Australia and the US to relaunch a quadrilateral dialogue on Indo-Pacific in November 2017. The move was apparently been aimed at bringing the four democratic nations together and creating a bulwark against communist China in the region. 


New Delhi, however, went for a course correction early this year, as it started reaching out to Beijing to mend the complex India-China relations towards the end of the last year. Modi, himself, made it clear in Singapore in June this year that India never viewed the Indo-Pacific region as “a strategy or as a club of limited members”. He said that India stood for a free, open, inclusive region, which would embrace all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity.


India is keen to make it sure that its own Indo-Pacific strategy does not sound overtly adversarial to China, particularly at a time when efforts are on to bring the ties back on track.