Why RIC is as important to India as JAI and BRICS?

  • Category
    World Affairs
  • Published
    10th Jan, 2019
  • Recently, at the G-20 Summit held in Buenos Aires, the newly-forged Japan-USA-India (JAI) trilateral meeting hogged everyone’s attention.
  • However, there was another equally important meeting which took place on the side-lines — that of the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral, a much older grouping.

Issue

Context:

  • Recently, at the G-20 Summit held in Buenos Aires, the newly-forged Japan-USA-India (JAI) trilateral meeting hogged everyone’s attention.
  • However, there was another equally important meeting which took place on the side-lines — that of the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral, a much older grouping.

Background

  • RIC was the first meeting of the heads of government of the three Eurasian powers in 12 years.
  • Conceived by the then Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov in 1998, much before BRICS, the idea of the RIC never really took off unlike the BRICS, despite occasional meetings on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly and other multilateral meetings.
  • However, this time, the three countries have agreed to hold regular summits from now on at all levels to jointly promote peace and stability.
  • They emphasised on the need to promote multilateralism, reform institutions of global governance like the UN and the WTO and highlighted the need to work together to steer global economic governance.

About

Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral

  • Together, the RIC countries occupy over 19 percent of the global landmass and contribute to over 33 percent of global GDP.
  • All three countries are nuclear powers and two, Russia and China, are permanent members of the UN Security Council, while India aspires to be one.

    Japan-USA-India (JAI)

    • In the recently held G-20 meeting at in Buenos Aires, Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed the India-US-Japan partnership as "JAI" or victory and said that the partnership between the three nations would go a long way in ensuring world peace and prosperity.
    • India, Japan and the United States have agreed that a “free, open, inclusive and rules based” order is essential for the Indo-Pacific’s peace and prosperity as the leaders from the three countries held a trilateral meeting for the first time, amidst China flexing its muscles in the strategic region.
    • The leaders also agreed to the central role of ASEAN and they also agreed to work on maritime and connectivity issues and to synergise efforts in this regard.


Analysis

Importance of RIC

  • For Russian President Vladimir Putin, the RIC meeting on the side-lines of the G-20 was a message to the West that despite their shunning him, he still has friends like India and China.
  • For China, the RIC provides a platform where it can push its interests in Eurasia.
  • Further, any holistic, stable security architecture on the Eurasian landmass cannot develop without having Beijing, Delhi and Moscow on board and the RIC offers the ideal forum for this.

Importance of RIC for India

  • Though apparently an unlikely troika due to the historical differences between New Delhi and Beijing, what binds the group together is the now strong partnership between Beijing and Moscow and the time-tested relations between Moscow and New Delhi.
  • So, in this sense, Russia becomes the bridge between India and China, since it enjoys strong relations with both.
  • Moreover, the RIC forms the core of both the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the
  • India is in a geostrategic sweet spot today. It is being wooed by everyone -- from the smaller powers in East Asia to the bigger powers like the US, Russia and China. The RIC summit is a reflection of this new found status. India would do well to give RIC the same importance as the JAI group.
  • The drawback if India focuses only on groupings like the Quad and the JAI is that these groupings essentially revolve around the Indo Pacific and will confine India to being only a maritime power when it is actually both a maritime and continental power.
  • It is important for India as an aspiring power to be able to thwart China’s aspirations of being a hegemon in both the maritime and continental spheres.
  • India cannot cede geostrategic space in the Eurasian supercontinent to China if it wants to be a great power and it understands that Russia alone will not be able to prevent the emergence of China as a hegemon in Eurasia.
  • Moreover, the RIC is important for India’s ambitions for a variety of reasons.

Strategic importance of RIC

  • Even though India, China and Russia may disagree on a number of security issues in Eurasia, there are areas where their interest converge, like, for instance, on Afghanistan. Primarily, none of them wants an Afghanistan, which is a haven for terrorist activities. So, they could work together as part of the RIC to ensure stable peace in Afghanistan and by extension, in Central Asia.
  • Regular RIC interactions could also help the three countries identify other issues where they have congruent views like the volatile situation in the West Asia, particularly on issues like the sanctions on Iran.
  • As the Eurasian supercontinent regains its primacy in world affairs and as the interests of India, Russia and China deepen and clash in the region, it would be useful to have a platform to discuss areas of cooperation and understand the differences.

Economic importance of RIC

  • The trio could also contribute to creating a new economic structure for the world.
  • The US, under President Trump, apparently wants to break down the current economic and political order. While the existing structure is not satisfactory, the RIC could offer some suggestions which could be acceptable to the US.
  • With Russia being a major exporter of energy and India and China being major consumers, the three countries could discuss the creation of an Asian energy grid, which could go a long way in ensuring energy security for the region as well as allow these countries to determine prices suitable to them.

RIC importance on Climate Change issue

  • The RIC countries could work together on disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.
  • With the Northern Sea Route opening up due to climate change, the RIC has a common interest in ensuring that it is not left to the West and Russia alone and that India and China make the transition from rule followers to rule makers by helping formulate some of the rules governing the Arctic route.

Conclusion

  • The Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral is a significant multilateral grouping, because it brings together the three largest Eurasian countries which are also incidentally geographically contiguous.
  • This year’s RIC summit is a continuation of the turn-around in India’s foreign policy after Modi’s summit meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan and President Putin in Sochi earlier this year. It is an assertion of India’s strategic autonomy, which will hopefully continue well after the general elections to be held in the country in 2019.

Learning Aid

Practice Question:

In the light of recently held summits, discuss the importance of groupings like RIC (Russia-India-China) and Japan-USA-India (JAI) for India.

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