India, Russia To counter China In Central Asia

Russian President Vladimir Putin shares concern with Indian leadership about growing Chinese influence in the energy-rich Central Asian region

New Delhi: Russia and China may have been much closer with each other in the recent past, but Moscow is “more than keen” to work with Delhi to check Beijing’s growing influence in the energy-rich and strategically important Central Asian region. Top diplomatic sources said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has himself conveyed this message to the Indian leadership, saying that like India his “government is also concerned about the growing influence of China in this region”. “Beijing’s assertiveness in Afghanistan is also causing concern in the Russian establishment,” sources say, quoting diplomats of Moscow.

“Russia will step up defence cooperation with India in the Central Asian region, and both countries will also work on ways aimed at enhancing cooperation and joint activities in the region,” says a diplomat. “Once Russia and India start more active participation in the projects and other constructive activities apart from military drills in the Central Asian nations, it will be a big setback for China’s grand ambition to enhance presence in the region,” he adds.

According to sources, the Russian leadership has also shared its concern with India about terror outfits such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda infiltrating Central Asia. With this in view, Russia wants to enhance its partnership drastically with India to fight the menace of terrorism. “The actual action plan is being worked out by the experts of both the countries, and soon a concrete shape of that plan will come out,” say sources. “External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov are in constant touch with each other over these matters,” says a source.

In what is being seen as a significant development, Russia and India exchanged a white paper recently “on ways to step up their defence cooperation in Central Asia”. The document has recommendations on how both countries can jointly manufacture defence equipment in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

India and Russia will also conduct bilateral counterterrorism and military drills. Diplomats believe that this will be a positive development not only for the joint action plan to counter terrorism in the region but also “for counterbalancing China there”. “It’s a big diplomatic achievement for India that Russia, which is enjoying close ties with China at present, is ready to work with India to check Beijing’s unnecessary presence in the Central Asian region,” a senior diplomat says. China has set its eyes on the energy-rich region, which is also bordering Afghanistan under Taliban rule. India with its huge investment in Afghanistan is also watchful of every single development in the trouble-torn country.

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