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Editorial of the Day: Russia-India-China (RIC) Triangle and the Changing International System

Context: The article discusses Russia’s new foreign policy strategy that identifies China and India as its main allies on the world stage. It also notes that the policy emphasizes the importance of deepening ties and coordination with these “friendly sovereign global centres of power and development” located on the Eurasian continent.

Russia-India-China (RIC) Triangle Background

India-China Turbulence: India-China relations have been characterized by a complex mix of cooperation, competition, and conflict. Key events that have contributed to the turbulence in India-China geopolitics:

  • Border disputes: The ongoing border disputes between India and China in the Himalayan region (LAC and McMahon Line) have been a major source of tension.
  • Competition for regional influence: India and China have competing visions for regional influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has raised concerns in India about China’s growing presence in the region.
  • Economic ties: India has raised concerns about the trade imbalance between the two countries. India has a significant trade deficit with China, with imports from China far exceeding exports to China. This has raised concerns in India about the impact on its domestic industry and job market.
  • Geopolitical alliances: India’s growing ties with countries like Australia and the Quad (a strategic forum comprising India, the US, Japan, and Australia) have also contributed to the turbulence in India-China geopolitics.
    • India is a member of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) to promote economic development and cooperation among member countries where it raises its concerns about China’s assertive behaviour in the region.
    • Other such associations include  Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) to enhance maritime security and cooperation among the countries of the Indo-Pacific region, India-US strategic partnership and regional groupings such as ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).


India and Russia have a long-standing strategic partnership, which has been based on strong historical, political, economic, and defence ties. However, Russia’s growing inclination towards China has raised concerns in India, particularly given the tensions between India and China. Despite this, the ties between both countries have remained relatively stable.

  • Defence cooperation: Russia is one of India’s largest defence suppliers, and the two countries have ongoing defence projects. The two sides have engaged in joint development and production of various defence equipment, including the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile and the Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) program.
  • Military exercises: India and Russia conduct regular military exercises, including the Indra series of joint exercises.
  • Energy cooperation: India is one of the largest importers of Russian oil, with Russian crude oil accounting for about 15% of India’s total oil imports. India has also been importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia. There is a long-term LNG supply agreement between the two sides. India and Russia have also cooperated in the field of nuclear energy, with Russia building the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu.
  • Strategic partnership: India and Russia have a strategic partnership, which includes regular high-level visits and consultations on regional and global issues.
  • Economic ties: India and Russia have sought to enhance their economic ties, including through the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project, which aims to improve connectivity between India, Russia, and other countries in the region. The two countries have set a target of increasing bilateral trade to $30 billion by 2025. In addition, they are exploring ways to enhance cooperation in areas such as infrastructure, agriculture, and technology.

Growing Sino-Russian Alliance:

Russia and China have been increasingly cooperating in a wide range of areas. Some areas of increased inclination include:

  • Energy: Russia is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and natural gas, while China is the world’s largest energy consumer. The two countries have been cooperating in the energy sector for years, with Russia exporting large amounts of oil and gas to China.
  • Military cooperation: Military cooperation between China and Russia has been steadily increasing in recent years, driven by a shared interest in countering U.S. military and economic power, as well as by common strategic interest. Russia and China have been conducting joint military exercises since 2005 and in 2018, China purchased Russia’s S-400 air defence system.
  • Geopolitics: Russia and China have been working together to counterbalance the influence of the West in international institutions such as the United Nations.
  • Technology: Russia and China have been cooperating in the field of technology, particularly in areas such as 5G networks, artificial intelligence, and space technology.
  • Trade and investment: Russia and China have set a target of increasing bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2024.
  • Diplomacy: Russia and China have been cooperating in various diplomatic efforts, including their support for each other’s territorial claims, such as Russia’s annexation of Crimea and China’s claims in the South China Sea.
  • China’s Stand on Ukraine War: China’s official position on Russia’s annexation of Ukraine has been one of neutrality and non-interference while the rest of the World condemned it.

Implications for India due to growing Sino-Russian Proximity:

  • Diplomatic Implications: Russia’s growing economic and military ties with China could make it more difficult for India to maintain its traditional strategic relationship with Russia. This could impact India’s access to Russian military technology and equipment, as well as limit India’s ability to use Russia as a strategic counterbalance against China.
  • Anti-US Axis: The increasing alignment between Russia and China could create a stronger anti-U.S. axis in the region, which could potentially lead to a greater risk of conflict and instability.
  • Energy Security: If Russia increases its energy exports to China, it could potentially limit the amount of oil and gas available to India, which could impact India’s economic growth and development.
  • Military Implications: The growing military cooperation between Russia and China could pose a challenge to India’s security interests, particularly in the Indian Ocean region where China has been expanding its naval presence.

Decoding the Editorial

Recently, Russia declared a new foreign policy strategy, designating the United States as its greatest threat and highlighting Moscow’s alliance with China and India in its 42-page document published on the Kremlin’s website.

Key Highlights of the Document:

  • The document stressed on  the importance of “the deepening of ties and coordination with friendly sovereign global centers of power and development located on the Eurasian continent.”
  • According to the document, Russia will continue to build a particularly privileged strategic partnership with India with a view to enhancing and expanding cooperation in all areas on a mutually beneficial basis.
  • The document also stated that Russia aims to further strengthen its comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation with China, focusing on mutually beneficial cooperation in all areas.
  • The document states that Russia will prioritise enhancing the capacity and international role of various international organizations, including BRICS, SCO, CIS, EAEU, CSTO, RIC, and others with strong Russian participation, to help adapt the world order to the realities of a multipolar world.

Beyond the Editorial

Russia-India-China (RIC) Triangle in the changing International System:

  • RIC is a strategic grouping that first took shape in the late 1990s under the leadership of Yevgeny Primakov, a Russian politician as “a counterbalance to the Western alliance.”
  • The group was founded on the basis of ending its subservient foreign policy guided by the USA and renewing old ties with India and fostering the newly discovered friendship with China.
  • Together, the RIC countries occupy over 19% of the global landmass and contribute to over 33% of global GDP.

Relevance of RIC for India

  • Strategic cooperation: The RIC trilateral provides a forum for the three countries to cooperate on issues such as regional security, counter-terrorism, and economic development.
  • New world order: RIC trilateral has the potential to create a new Asia-centric world order, which can work towards a more balanced geopolitics of the world.
  • Energy security: Russia and China are major energy suppliers, and India is a growing consumer of energy. The RIC trilateral provides a platform for cooperation on energy security.
  • Multilateralism: The RIC trilateral provides a platform for cooperation on global governance reform, including the reform of the UN Security Council and other multilateral institutions.

Concerns with RIC for India:

  • China’s Hostile Attitude: China’s increasingly hostile attitude towards India in recent years makes it difficult for India to engage in platforms such as RIC without confronting China.
  • Russia’s Alignment with China: Russia’s alignment with China on certain issues is placing India in a difficult position.
  • Limited Scope for Cooperation: The scope for cooperation between India, Russia, and China is limited, given the many differences and conflicts that exist between the three countries.

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