Moscow won’t interfere in India-China tensions: Russian lawmaker

Moscow won’t interfere in India-China tensions: Russian lawmaker

‘These bilateral disputes should be dealt with bilaterally’

Russia won’t “interfere” and wants India and China to resolve their border dispute bilaterally, a senior Russian lawmaker said, referring to the five-week-long military standoff between the Indian and Chinese troops at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), drawing a contrast to the U.S. offer of mediation that India declined last week.

“Our official position is that these bilateral disputes should be dealt with bilaterally. We respect the sovereignty of India and the sovereignty of China. Russia should not interfere in these kinds of disputes… We would encourage dialogue and prevent the use of military force,” said Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Federation Council (Upper House of Parliament), speaking to Indian journalists at a press meet through videoconference ahead of Russia’s National Day.

Russian Ambassador to India Nikolai Kudashev had met Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla last week when the situation at the LAC was discussed. The meeting came the same day that Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump and reportedly conveyed India’s position that it didn’t require mediation offered by Mr. Trump.

During the conversation, Mr. Modi had also welcomed an invitation from Mr. Trump to an “extended” G-7 summit that would include India, Russia, Australia and South Korea. Unlike New Delhi, however, Mr. Kosachev said that Moscow has many misgivings about the invitation, which it sees as an attempt to build an “anti-China” front. Mr. Kosachev said the Russian government would take a final decision once its doubts had been cleared, including on whether India and Russia and other invitees would be accepted by G-7 nations as “equal members” of a new group, or whether they would simply be “special guests, with no power to influence outcomes”.

“The problem with this invitation to the G-7 format is that Mr. Trump is extending it, and he doesn’t have the right to expand the forum by himself,” said Mr. Kosachev. “Mr. Trump wants to get countries together to make a joint position on China. I don’t think given our specific relations with China, or India’s relations with China, that this [would work]… I am against building a bloc that is aimed at another country,” Mr. Kosachev added.

Asked about the U.S.-led efforts for an Afghanistan reconciliation process that Russia backs, which would bring the Afghanistan government’s representatives and the Taliban leadership to the table later this month, Mr. Kosachev said India should “contribute to the political dialogue” as well. Last month, India was a notable exception, as the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a meeting of special envoys on Afghanistan from Russia, Pakistan, Iran and China. Mr. Kosachev said he was surprised by the decision and he supports India’s inclusion in the format as a “neighbour state”.

“India has a common border with Afghanistan, so I am in favour of having India as a participant of the formats. I am surprised if India is not invited… that is not a good move. I would recommend Russia to take steps to involve India as much as possible,” Mr. Kosachev said, adding that while he understood India’s decision not to engage with the Taliban, the reality was that the Taliban is an “influential player in Afghanistan”.

“In Russia, the Taliban is still classified as an extremist movement. But at the same time we are realists and we understand Taliban is an influential player in Afghanistan, so if you exclude them from political dialogue you will not reach a solution,” Mr. Kosachev said.

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