The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Putin push for China axis

New Delhi, Dec. 1: A Russia-India-China trilateral axis may not be in the offing, but closer co-operation on important economic and political issues is a proposal Vladimir Putin is likely to place when the Russian President arrives here on Tuesday.

Putin, who spent the last few days in China, is likely to share with India, Beijing’s views on important developments in the world, particularly Iraq, and how the three nations could work together for mutual benefit.

Soon after his arrival he will drive to the Prime Minister’s 7 Race Course Road residence, where Atal Bihari Vajpayee will host a private dinner for him. This will give the two leaders the chance to discuss important issues with a few select aides.

Terrorism will be one of the main focus for discussions as both countries are victims of the menace. A Joint Working Group on terrorism will be set up and the issue will also find significant mention in the Delhi Declaration to be issued at the end of Putin’s three-day visit.

The visit gathers special significance not only because India and Russia are “traditional allies”, but because it comes at a time when both countries are facing serious threat from separatist forces. The recent attack by Chechen rebels on a Russian theatre and Moscow’s handling of the hostage crisis will come up for discussion. So would India’s relations with Pakistan and the series of militant strikes, including the one on Jammu’s Raghunath temple.

The two sides will also have a delegation-level discussion, which will be headed by Vajpayee and Putin.

The entire gamut of bilateral ties will be reviewed. The Russian President will address a joint business session of the CII and Ficci and have lunch with captains of Indian business and industry. A banquet will be organised by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in honour of the Russian leader.

Although Moscow is keen that Delhi warms up to the idea of closer co-operation with Beijing, so far the signs from the Vajpayee government have not been very encouraging. Foreign minister Yashwant Sinha met his Russian and Chinese counterparts, Igor Ivanov and Tang Xinjuan, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September. But apart from a cursory discussion on some international and regional issues, no substantial discussion took place.

India, which has good and strong ties with Russia, is trying to improve its relations with China. The recent boundary talks between the two have progressed well, but India’s reluctance to increase the pace of its interaction with China, especially in a trilateral axis with Russia, stems from the fact that it is not yet confident about its neighbour.

Indications suggest that since there are too many differences at the political level, the focus may be on improving economic and trade co-operation, as this is an area from which India, Russia and China could all benefit.

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