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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

Three-Pin Bowling

Russia-China-India, first portents of a new axis in the making?

Three-Pin Bowling
Tribhuvan Tiwari
Three-Pin Bowling
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
Can India, China and Russia form a strategic triangle? When this idea was first mooted by the Russians, in the declining years of Boris Yeltsin, it was met with a mixture of derision and a certain apprehension. Could three nuclear powers, accounting for almost 40 per cent of the world's population and nearly a quarter of the total area of the planet, unfurl the banner of revolt in a unipolar world that had its centre of gravity elsewhere? Most dismissed it as far-fetched, absurd. The Chinese were reluctant, the Indians intrigued. But the Russians persisted.

At the end of the sixth meeting of foreign ministers from these countries, it was clear that obituaries for an emerging axis have been slightly premature. As Union external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee reeled off the outcomes of the meeting (that lasted 105 minutes at the Billiards Room in Hyderabad House around a U-shaped table, with India at the head, Russia on the right and China on the left), it was obvious to the assembled media that the trilateral meetings have managed to acquire an institutional status. And when Chinese foreign minister Li Zhaoxing played to the gallery (see box), it seemed a far cry from the first hesitant meeting on the margins of the UN in 2002. Li's predecessor, Tan Jiaxuan, had then refused to even pose for the cameras, leaving the Russians to put the best public spin on this enigmatic development.

One year later, it was another story altogether. At the end of the second meeting, all three ministers were caught on camera holding hands, the three new geopolitical musketeers. The picture, somehow portentous, was reflected and debated upon in the world. For the Indian foreign policy establishment, the debate has been settled in favour of this triangular development, and last week's proceedings confirmed there now remained no room for...
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