India’s relationship with Russia has received a few hard knocks in recent months making one wonder what is it that the Russian government is piqued about. Right since independence, the Russians consistently kept Pakistan at arm’s length and stood by India through thick and thin, but of late there are unmistakable signs of a cosy relationship between Moscow and Islamabad at the cost of India. The latest is a meeting held between China, Pakistan and Russia in Moscow to discuss Afghanistan’s “deteriorating” security situation, held despite strong protests from Afghanistan.
The agenda was to accommodate Taliban as a tool against the Islamic State terror group. Strangely, the Russians have shown that they couldn’t care less about what India thinks of the move. At the Moscow meeting, towards the end of the day there was agreement to include Afghanistan in the group’s future parleys. The invitation may be extended to Iran too. But India, with its known antipathy towards the Taliban is neither invited nor apparently would be briefed on the goings-on at the meeting. Russian president Putin was cleared upset with India when this country was moving closer to the US on nuclear issues during the George Bush and Barack Obama presidencies. But India was quick to gauge that and take remedial action when it announced US$10 billion in defence purchases from Moscow.
The Russians claim that they are wary of the IS getting to their doorstep by building up a strong presence in Afghanistan and their (Russia’s) wooing of the Taliban is to stave off that eventuality. Though they do not acknowledge it, they are also looking at some leverage with Pakistan to take advantage of the China-Pak tie-up in using the proposed economic corridor of the two countries to rule over the seas for trade and communication. The US role in Afghanistan is steeped in uncertainty with no knowing which way President-elect Donald Trump would turn. For India, the resurgence of Taliban is something that it can ill afford. It is therefore for India to find common ground with China and Russia so that the situation does not go out of hand.