ANALYSIS - Russia Best Suited For Helping Thaw China-India Relations - Experts

ANALYSIS - Russia Best Suited for Helping Thaw China-India Relations - Experts

NEW DELHI (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 14th January, 2022) Russia is in the best position to help China and India normalize bilateral relations after the sides once again failed to make headway at the 14th round of talks on reducing tensions in the disputed territories on Wednesday, Indian experts told Sputnik.

The lack of a marked border between India and China has long been a source of tensions between the countries. Tensions escalated in May 2020 after a series of clashes between their border forces led to multiple fatalities. In a bid to settle the conflict, the two nations launched disengagement consultations in early June 2020, but no significant progress has been made so far.

In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin held separate talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, reigniting rumors that a possible trilateral summit may be in the works. Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov confirmed that the meeting was on the agenda of the Putin-Xi virtual conference.

"Russia has a historic opportunity to be a broker of peace and stability between China and India. It can craft a roadmap that can be win-win-win for all three countries, Russia, China and India, in Eurasia," Robinder Nath Sachdev, president of a New Delhi based think tank, Imagindia, said.

The expert believes that no other country is better suited for helping India and China find a balance on the sensitive issue, mostly due to Russia's own geopolitical situation amid a stand-off with the United States.

"In the power games between these 4 countries, Russia must aim to build deeper and wider, and trusting, relations between Russia, India and China. By helping China and India to lower the tensions, Russia will improve its own geopolitical position also," Sachdev said.

Moscow can push the idea of creating a buffer zone on the disputed borders to reduce the tensions, according to the expert. The Kremlin's recent announcement that the trilateral summit may be happening soon is an indication that Russia is ready to take on a more active role on the issue and engage in the "backroom diplomacy," he added.

China, in turn, is also likely to welcome Russia's initiative as both countries agree that they would not want India "to be in such corner that India relations with Russia and China downslide and therefore India moves completely into an American block," Sachdev said.

However, the RIC (Russia-India-China) format has so far lacked substance and in its current form will have a limited role to play in settling the long-standing India-China conflict, Swasti Rao, an expert from the Europe and Eurasia Center at a government-run think tank, Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis in New Delhi, noted.

Now would be the right time to step up cooperation on both the Russian and Indian sides, Rao said, given the two countries' common concern about China. Both Russia and China have competing claims on Central Asia, which Moscow considers its traditional sphere of influence and where China has been making inroads through its "chequebook diplomacy," the expert said.

"This balancing act by Russia is not coming from building bridges of friendship between India and China but from Russia's attempts to balance out China with whom Russia has a complicated relationship," Rao explained.

India, which boasts close ties with Moscow, its main arms supplier, can utilize the situation and its position as Russia's ally to balance China and indirectly pressure Beijing, the expert said. This would also be in Russia's interest as it would not want to lose out on the trade and logistical support from India given multiple sanctions from the West, according to Rao.

Despite existing issues between the three partners and problems inherent to the RIC platform, the willingness to engage shows that they "are taking plurilateral engagements seriously and hence their potential remains," Rao concluded.