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Suchak Patel asked: What is the relevance of Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral post-Doklam and Galwan?

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  • S. Kalyanaraman replies: States form alliances, forge coalitions and constitute groupings to tackle a major diplomatic or security challenge confronting them at a certain point in time. When the challenge is overcome, or its virulence abates, or it ceases to pose a threat to one or more members, then such alliances, coalitions and groupings unravel.

    The Russia-India-China (RIC) grouping came into being in the late 1990s to enhance each member’s leverage vis-à-vis a hyperactive United States (US) in the Unipolar Moment. Russia was embittered by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion to its borders and the US military campaign against its historical Slavic ally Serbia over Kosovo. India needed to resist US pressure on, as well as drive a wedge between China and the US which had teamed up to call for the roll back of, its nuclear weapons programme. China was acutely concerned about the direction of US policy on Taiwan and Tibet.

    Within a few years, however, RIC began to lose much of its relevance for India after the US granted de facto recognition to the Indian nuclear weapons programme, agreed to cooperate with India in the civil nuclear sector, spearheaded India’s admission into the global nuclear and missile non-proliferation regime, and initiated policy measures to facilitate India’s emergence as a major Asian and world power.

    Simultaneously, the challenges posed by China to India’s diplomatic and security interests began to intensify, with China asserting expansive territorial claims, initiating a series of border crises and standoffs, protecting Pakistan and its terrorist proxies from international sanctions, and expanding its diplomatic and military footprint in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region.

    Nevertheless, RIC continues to serve two related purposes for India. One, it provides a forum to remain engaged with China, which is a powerful neighbour and an important actor on the Asian stage and in international affairs at large. Two, RIC is an incentive for Russia to remain neutral on India-China disputes as well as to exercise friendly persuasion and restraint on China.

    Posted on January 22, 2021

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.