02/14/2007, 00.00
INDIA – CHINA – RUSSIA
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India, Russia and China discussing terrorism, energy and politics

It is their second tripartite meeting of foreign ministers. All three want to strengthen mutual economic and political ties as well as enhance relations with other countries. Meanwhile Sino Indian trade booms.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The foreign ministers of India, China and Russia are meeting today in New Delhi to discuss terrorism, drug trafficking, energy security and international affairs (Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea). After decades of rivalry, the three countries are holding their second tripartite meeting after the one held in 2005 in the Russian city of Vladivostok.

“As Russia's relations . . . with China grew deeper, India-China relations . . . normalised [and] Beijing and New Delhi manifested mounting interest in contacts with Russia in tripartite format on a wide range of matters of mutual interest,” Russian foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin.

Among that wide range of matters, “[e]nergy cooperation would be a big ticket item on the talks agenda,'' said C. Uday Bhaskar from the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence and Strategic Analyses.

Russia is particularly interested in selling its energy in the East as China and Japan vie to build a Siberia-Pacific oil pipeline.

India, too, is starved for energy and developing nuclear technology for civilian use (it has signed deals with both Moscow and Washington) require years. For this reason it wants oil and gas to flow from Russia and Iran via Pakistan and knows that it is competing with Europe.

This became apparent during the Russian President Putin’s January visit to New Delhi, when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that energy security was "the most important of the emerging dimensions" of the Indo-Russian strategic partnership with India looking “forward to long-term partnership with Russia in this vital field.”

Similarly, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told Putin on January 28 that Iran and Russia could cooperate along OPEC lines since Russia controls 27 per cent of the world's gas reserves and Iran 15 per cent.

China and India are huge markets for energy and trade between the two countries is surging at a breathtaking speed. India overtook Canada to become China's 10th largest trading partner in January as monthly trade between the South Asian country and China soared by 63.3 per cent to US$ 2.63 billion. In 2006, Sino-Indian trade grew by 33.87 per cent to US$ 25.05 billion with China enjoying a trade surplus of US$ 4.11 billion.

Experts are now pondering whether these consultations will lead to an entente to keep in check US influence in the region.

Confirming the growing rapprochement between India and China, Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing discussed regional and world issues in New Delhi.

The two countries have decided to set up a hotline between their respective foreign ministers, liberalise border procedures and institutionalise their dialogue.

India is bidding for a permanent seat in an expanded UN Security Council and wants to develop its own civil nuclear energy technology and space exploration programme and the other two countries can help it. (PB)

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