20.04.2021 Author: Vladimir Terehov

On Sergey Lavrov’s Trip to India and Pakistan

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s trip to India and Pakistan during his most recent overseas tour is rather noteworthy for several important reasons. The first and probably the most important, is that the very fact of this tour, as well as the visit of Lavrov to China three weeks earlier, is another strong indication of the general shift of the focus of global political and economic processes to the Indo-Pacific region.

All components (primarily military) of the national power of the United States, that is, one of the two global powers, are shifting to the IPR. This is also an important area of interest, where the leading European countries are increasingly being drawn to.

Regarding the latter, it is only natural that Europeans would like to expand cooperation with the countries of the region in the economic sphere, the main component of pan-European power. But it remains a mystery why French, British and even German warships are being sent ten thousand kilometers away from Europe. They will not bring much to regional “power” balances, but they will contribute greatly to the deterioration of the political background here.

Even more natural looks the “Asian U-turn” (rather delayed in time) of the political course of the Russian Federation, which (unlike the Americans-Europeans) is also an Asian power. At least geographically and territorially.

Inherent in real political life is the existence of problems. In Asia they are rather serious and mostly of an internal nature. That is, various kinds of external “machinations” are certainly present here as well, but for the most part they are not the issue.

The fundamental feature of Russia’s “Asian U-turn” strategy is seen in the fact that it should contribute to solving regional dislocations, rather than derive some (ephemeral) “benefit” from them. The second is mostly seen in the “Asian shift” in strategies of the United States and the Europeans mentioned above. The key problem of the Russian Federation, due to the weak development of two-thirds of its territory located beyond the Urals, can be solved only in conditions of strategic stability in the IPR.

One of the main regional problems is the difficulty of relations between the two Asian giants, the PRC and India. In the author’s view, the long-standing problem between India and Pakistan, which have been de facto nuclear powers for more than two decades, can now be considered a branch of said problems.

This problem began at the time of the formation of independent India and Pakistan. The PRC, which emerged two years later, was just beginning to outline its (potential) regional claims. The process of gradual incorporation of the Indo-Pakistani issue into the format of Sino-Indian relations appeared with the end of the Cold War, when the entire geopolitical map began to be reshaped. It ended at the turn of the transition from the 1990s to the 2000s

Today, the established system of relations in the PRC-India-Pakistan triangle can well be regarded as a single complex. The similar “waves of change” are observed nearly simultaneously in India’s relations with both the PRC and Pakistan.

An extremely important and positive trend for the situation in IPR was the process of stopping and subsequent gradual exit from the most dangerous crisis in decades in the aforementioned triangle as a whole, which began in February of this year. That can be fully attributed to the leadership of each of the three countries.

Russia is perhaps the only major external player interested in the further development of this process and ready to “assist” in it as much as possible. This is facilitated by two interrelated circumstances. First, the Russian Federation maintains constructive relations with all the “corners” of the aforementioned triangle and does not give rise to suspicions of “playing along” with one of them at the expense of the other. Second, this is why the offer of assistance to resolve the tensions between India on the one hand and the PRC and Pakistan on the other is greeted favorably.

An important indication of this was a trip to Delhi and Islamabad by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, which began on April 5. Three weeks earlier he had visited China and had talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. “Local” feedback in all three countries on the results of the Russian minister’s visit is quite positive.

During the visit to each of them, issues of bilateral relations were also addressed. In particular, Delhi apparently drew a line under some of the “rough edges” that emerged in Russian-Indian relations at the end of last year. The immediate reason for that was the “pro-American” trend in India’s foreign policy, which emerged long ago, but which received an important confirmation during the regular US-India “2+2” meeting in the fall of 2020. In the United States, this trend has so far been regarded as one of the few but very important achievements of American foreign policy.

The more surprising are the “strange” (to put it mildly) actions of Washington most recently with regard to the same India. NEO has discussed the visit of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to this country, who put the “human rights” issue at the center of the talks, thereby almost disrupting the entire event.

At the time, it seemed as if there was nothing more than a random setback in the political course in a crucially important area for Washington. But on April 12, the Indian media literally exploded with excitement when it was reported that a US missile destroyer, which took part in the US-India-Japan-Australia-France multilateral La Perouse naval exercises, had entered the “Zone of Exclusive Economic Interest” of India without informing the relevant Indian agencies. Moreover, there was a “clarification” from US 7th Fleet headquarters that the captain of the American ship was not supposed to do that!

Strange things are happening behind the screen of public American political action. And what about Washington’s 20-year successful policy on the Indian front? And half-Indian Kamala Harris, i.e. the “about to be American president” who, without notice, suddenly disappeared? And the Indian-born employees at all levels of the new US administration, which the White House is full of? Was the unnamed author of the commentary on the above post really right? “Biden continues to destroy everything Trump has accomplished?”

What draws attention is an outwardly inconspicuous (but in fact, perhaps most important) event conducted by Sergey Lavrov during the entirety of his recent foreign tour. The author is referring to Lavrov’s meeting in Delhi with former Secretary of State John Kerry, who somehow also happened to be in the Indian capital at the same time. The photo in the Hindustan Times accompanying the article about the meeting of old acquaintances shows both of them almost embracing, that is, by the way, in flagrant violation of the strict WHO recommendations on safety measures in these dangerous “coronavirus” times.

The topic of their conversation, as reported in the press, was the preparation for a summit on “climate change” and the audit of previously adopted relevant international documents. Note, however, that a natural phenomenon such as fog is common to climate problems. A similar phenomenon is present in politics, in which it is most often created artificially and for the right moment.

In any case, Kerry, “thrown” by the new American president onto the climate problem, went again to Asia on April 14-17, where his chief interlocutors will be his colleagues from China.

Are Washington, Beijing, and Moscow, behind the “climate fog”, trying to agree on something much more important and urgent? And in a three-way format, that is, without the involvement of other important players? Not to mention the background political “subplots,” such as the cheek-puffing Eastern European “campaign.”

The impression is that the John Kerry whom nobody has elected has much more weight in the US politics than the “legally” elected vice-president Kamala Harris. Which would be right, because serious matters cannot be entrusted to the masters of “powdering” the weak electoral brains, prone to change. Like the wind in May.

If such assessments of what happened in Delhi are not the author’s complete fantasy, then Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with “climate scientist” John Kerry and the latter’s subsequent trip to Shanghai take on much more significance than it seems at first glance.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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