Russia-China-India: diplomats' ties should encourage business

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev) - The foreign ministers of India, China and Russia will hold a routine meeting in New Delhi on February 14.

The idea for the "triangle" was proposed by the head of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Yevgeny Primakov, when he was Russia's foreign minister. It took root, although it has not been used to counter American influence, probably because that influence was waning of its own accord. At the same time, the three countries need the United States as a trading partner.

Officially, it will be the fourth ministerial meeting, after two that were held at the UN and one in Vladivostok in 2005. However, the trio also met in an extended format when their colleague from Brazil joined them at the UN in September 2006, and the three countries' leaders - Manmohan Singh, Hu Jintao and Vladimir Putin - also conferred in Strelna outside St. Petersburg during the G8 summit last summer.

In short, their meetings have become a routine diplomatic event, with announcements of the meetings' results occupying barely a few lines in official news.

The trio is so far only exchanging opinions and synchronizing their positions on international issues. They are doing quite well, because knowing exactly what your partner thinks about Iran or Central Asia is vital for national leaders irrespective of their relations.

Moreover, relations between the three countries, which are rapidly gaining global influence, are becoming especially important precisely because of their regularity. The goals set for the forums of such organizations as the Non-Aligned Movement frequently appear vague, but the forums themselves play an important role as the planned sites for meetings between top leaders who can discuss anything they want.

The history of Russian-Chinese-Indian relations includes one major achievement and one big failure.

In 2006, the three countries successfully dealt with the situation created by the U.S.-Indian "nuclear transaction." Many people in Moscow and Beijing were ready to believe private Washington experts who said the ultimate goal of the U.S. was not to get a foothold on the Indian market of nuclear energy in order to save the dying American sector, but to use India as a bulwark against the rapidly growing influence of China and Russia.

In other words, the world's only superpower, which was losing its grip on things, allegedly intended to form a strategic alliance with a rising power of tomorrow spearheaded against other future powers.

The three countries used their meetings, including the G8 summit last summer, to get a handle on the situation. They eventually agreed that India had not lost its much touted wisdom and was unlikely to surrender its independence in a race for questionable benefits. This was their main achievement.

As for the failure, they still cannot agree to bring together their economic interests in a trilateral economic partnership.

Indian-Chinese trade has been growing rapidly, from $1.8 billion in 2000 to more than $10 billion in 2005 and $20 billion in 2006. China may soon push the United States aside as India's biggest trading partner.

Russian-Chinese trade, although valued at $30 billion, does not make Russia Beijing's biggest trade partner. And Russian-Indian trade looks very poor (barely $3 billion). In this situation, the Kremlin should get hold of as many trade projects in Asia as possible.

The close proximity, common interests and emerging economies of the three countries mean that they have quite a few business issues on their agenda. Two years ago in Vladivostok, they agreed to set up a trilateral business structure to give their business communities a forum for meeting, getting to know each other better, and planning joint projects. They were expected to make plans to build roads to connect their countries, and to undertake joint research in high technologies.

That idea was most probably advanced by officials rather than by businessmen, who have not yet succeeded in creating a trilateral chamber of commerce. Many experts explain the failure by Beijing's unwillingness to move from talking to action. However, diplomats have not abandoned the idea, and we can expect them to make relevant decisions after their meeting in New Delhi.

One possible issue for the New Delhi agenda is cooperation in Central Asia, but India is keeping its position vague. Instead of clearly outlining its priorities in the region, it is watching while the positions of Russia and China grow stronger there, which precludes cooperation.

Two days before the ministerial conference in New Delhi, Russian companies arrived there for an investment forum, including a large-scale presentation of Russian business interests in India. For a year before that, Russian companies held a series of presentations in China during the Year of Russia. This, however, does not mean that a trilateral business alliance will be easy to form.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent the opinions of the editorial board.

To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала