india tells russia, indo-pacific engagement not directed at any country
Monday, September 24, 2018
South China Sea
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Ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to the city next month, India has conveyed to Russia that its engagement in the Indo-Pacific region is not directed against any country and it was keen on having a broad framework to ensure peace and stability in the strategically key area, government sources said.
The US has been pushing for a greater role for India in the Indo-Pacific which is seen by many countries as an effort to contain China's growing clout in the region.
The issue of India's involvement in the Indo-Pacific figured prominently during talks between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
The sources said while acknowledging Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "inclusive vision" for the Indo-Pacific as outlined during the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore in June, the Russian side felt that there may be countries which could be trying to "manipulate" the Indo-Pacific concept to serve their own interests.
However, Ms Swaraj categorically conveyed to Mr Lavrov that India has always acted responsibly and that it was trying to carry everybody along for ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
"The external affairs minister made it very clear that India's engagement is not directed at any one country," a source said.
Mr Putin is scheduled to visit India early next month for the annual India-Russia summit during which both sides are likely to deliberate on security situation in the Indo-Pacific region.
In November last year, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending "Quad" coalition to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.
The four countries held a crucial meeting under the new framework in Singapore in June during which they deliberated on common concerns in the region and the way forward.
India, US and several other nations have been pressing for freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea. The US has been periodically sending naval ships and planes to assert freedom of navigation, much to the chagrin of China.
In a symbolic move to reflect the importance it attaches to India in the region, the US renamed its Pacific Command as the Indo-Pacific Command four months back.
In his address at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore in June, PM Modi had outlined his vision for a prosperous Indo-Pacific Asia and said the world will have a better future when India and China work together with trust and confidence while being sensitive to each other's interests.