The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Meet fuel to tri-axis fire

New Delhi, Sept. 10: Speculation over a trilateral axis between India, Russia and China is likely to be revived when foreign ministers of the three countries meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, beginning tomorrow. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday.

One of the main topics of discussion at the trilateral meeting scheduled for Thursday will be Iraq and the possible military attack on it by the US, which has been opposed by Delhi, Beijing and Moscow. The three nations are keen to develop a common position on several other important issues.

Energy security and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation — the security group into which India is keen to get in — might be the other areas of discussion.

Though opposed to war, all three countries realise it cannot be averted unless Saddam Hussein agrees to allow the UN inspectors into his country.

With Baghdad having taken a tough line, it would be left to the three leaders to garner support within the international community to ensure that Iraq accepts the entry of inspectors and thus denies the US a reason for attacking it.

There is no agenda for the proposed meeting and the discussions would be “freewheeling”, allowing the three leaders to raise any issue — bilateral, trilateral or regional — that would allow them to have a better understanding of each other’s positions.

Foreign minister Yashwant Sinha is scheduled to meet several of his counterparts bilaterally in New York. Similar meetings have been planned for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with heads of government of major international players.

But a trilateral meeting by three major countries on the sidelines of a UN Generel Assembly is an unusual step and likely to spark speculation on whether attempts were being made to revive the proposed triangular axis between India, Russia and China.

The trilateral axis was a favourite topic of former Russian Premier Yevgeny Primakov. The Russians had floated the idea a few years ago. Though Beijing was not averse to it then, Delhi had made it clear it was in no mood to form such an axis.

One of the main reasons for India’s opposition was its improving relations with the US after a long hiatus, while its problems with China had not yet been resolved.

The suggestion for a meeting between Sinha, Igor Ivanov and Tang Jianxuan was made by Russian deputy foreign minister Vyachaslav Trubnikov during a meeting last week with Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal in Moscow.

The two sides had coordinated their position on Iraq and some other international issues and felt it would be a good idea to involve China since Beijing, too, shared a common position on Iraq with Moscow.

India, though not keen on the axis, is not averse to the meeting on September 12 because it would also provide Delhi and Beijing an opportunity to clear the air of mistrust.

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