Lavrov-Jaishankar Meeting

On the 8th of November, the Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar visited Moscow, where alongside meeting various Russian officials such as Deputy Prime Minister and Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov, he held bilateral talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Here is a summary of the major points as from official press-releases of the Indian and Russian foreign ministries. Jaishankar noted that his visit to Moscow was intended to assess the state of bilateral relations between the two powers who ‘have a longstanding partnership that has served both countries very well over many decades.’ Since the independence of India, the two nations have developed deep diplomatic cooperation in the fields of trade, energy, and security. As Jaishankar emphasised, the Indian side is seeking to ‘expand and diversify our cooperation’ and raise the level of Indian exports to Russia towards lessening the trade imbalance between the two countries.

Major topics on the agenda for discussion were the situations around Ukraine and Afghanistan, as well as the future development of BRICS and of the SCO, of which India now holds the presidency. Regarding Ukraine, it was noted that India seeks a ‘return to dialogue and diplomacy’ due to the wider repercussions of the conflict. As Jaishankar said, the ‘global economy is simply too inter-dependent for a significant conflict anywhere, not to have major consequences elsewhere’, and that this is ‘not an era of war.’ The logic of this is correct, and the Russian side have indeed always emphasised that the decision to militarily intervene was to them an absolute necessity undertaken with reluctance, and Moscow has worked tirelessly to aid the nations of the developing world as with the current grain donations. Of more direct interest to India is the matter of Afghanistan. Lavrov noted that efforts on are ongoing ‘to help the Afghan people stabilise the situation and achieve national accord on the future of their country.’ This has included working with the Taliban-ruled government of the country, as yet unrecognised de jure. However, the Taliban representatives have not been invited to the upcoming Moscow format meeting, even though they were present last year. Lavrov explained that diplomatic efforts ‘have not yet achieved the desired result’ as the government in Kabul has been slow to fulfil commitments made to regional states that they will ‘consolidate the ethno-political unity of the Afghan people and ensure the inclusive character of power in the country.’ The two ministers noted that action between their states will be coordinated into the future to further the cause of peace and stability in Afghanistan and avoid the dangers of spill-over effects for the region. Indeed, this necessity of continued efforts to resolve the crisis in Afghanistan resulting from the US withdrawal will almost certainly contribute to deepening security cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi into the future: in this regard, it might be said that as in areas such as energy and trade, Washington has actually harmed its implicit geostrategic aim in weakening the links between the two powers.

Of interest to analysts of global international political trends were the comments on the increasing role of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) and the BRICS in developing the multipolar international order. As Jaishankar observed, India has recently assumed the Chair of the SCO and will assume the G20 Presidency in December: the agenda for New Delhi is for these formats (and others) to deepen and strengthen logics of multilateralism. One of India’s major goals is to reform the UN Security Council: that is, for India to receive a permanent seat as a veto-wielding power. Russian officials have been preaching that the UN Security Council needs to be reformed to greater reflect the realities of the modern international society for quite a while now, and Jaishankar noted that India welcomed Russian support in this area. Lavrov emphasized the importance of the SCO for regional security in Central Asia as well as wider Eurasian economic integration. The priorities of the organisation today are in boosting ‘cooperation in ensuring security and stability, and promoting economic and investment ties, and infrastructure projects in our common region, cooperation in education and culture’. As regards BRICS, Lavrov noted that this framework (in which Russia and India are of course key players) is seeing massive interest from nations in the developing world, with such states as Algeria, Argentina, and Iran applying for membership. According to him, work is being done among the BRICS nations to ‘coordinate the criteria and principles that we should be guided by when considering applications’ in order to expand the format in a constructive fashion, which Lavrov hopes will not be a lengthy process. BRICS is set to be a critical pillar of the emergent multipolar international order, especially in the ongoing content of moves towards de-dollarisation and even a potential gold-backed BRICS currency for trade settlements. If more states of the developing world (the powers of tomorrow) then the end of unipolar-hegemonism is certain beyond doubt, and this will serve the secure the status of Russia and India alike as autonomous great powers.

The Indian Foreign Ministry has declared that it holds Jaishankar’s visit to Moscow to have been a positive development for the mutual interests of both nations. Indian expert Nandan Unnikrishnan concurs, noting the ‘friendly atmosphere’ and that areas of policy difference such as regards to the Ukraine situation will not harm the strong bilateral relationship between Moscow and New Delhi. Unnikrishnan further observed that Jaishankar’s visit was an indirect message to Washington, who would have been closely following this development, that India would retain an autonomous foreign policy and not ’embrace its policy of isolating Russia.’ India has in fact committed itself to the development of a multipolar international order, which promises to consolidate her position as a leading great power of the 21st century. The strong relationship of cooperation between Russia and India will undoubtedly prove to be one of the key pillars of this emergent multipolar order. To end with Jaishankar’s words: ‘The world is moving towards greater multi-polarity through steady and continuous re-balancing…that especially means a multipolar Asia. As prominent nations who have a positive history of working together, this will naturally influence the conversations between Russia and India.’

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