Last Friday Russia at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers’ which was chaired by India, hit out at the US and multinational groupings. The Russian minister supporting China alleged that bodies like the QUAD have been formed “in order to contain China’’. And the “so called’’ tension around Taiwan has deliberately been created and later escalated and the disputes related to South China Sea and East China sea are being heated up. “Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s tirade against the Quad last week reflected Russia’s growing frustration with the US policy in Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific,” said an expert.

“His statements at the SCO meet might have pleased the Chinese leadership, which was probably the main objective too, but other leaders seemed unconcerned about the Quad. The Central Asian states, caught in their own political and security predicaments, are least concerned about the developments in the Indo-Pacific. They rarely speak either in favour or against the Quad,” says Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi.

According to him, “India’s Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, rightly reiterated India’s priorities at the SCO without any reference to alliances in the Indo-Pacific. As expected, he underlined the issues of terrorism, regional stability, territorial integrity and food security. In his view, countering terrorism, stability, and territorial integrity should be the core priorities of the SCO.”

“The difference in the speeches of the two defence ministers underlines how the two countries view the SCO. New Delhi views the organisation as a forum committed to ensuring stability and security in the Eurasian region, with Central Asia at its core. Moscow agrees with this perspective but has an additional motive. It views the SCO as a forum to limit the influence of the US in Eurasia. China might endorse such a perspective, but neither India nor Central Asian states treat the organisation as an anti-US forum,” opines Prof Rajan.

As a Quad member, India has articulated the compulsion of emerging geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific. “The Quad is neither a military forum nor aimed against Russia. Therefore, Moscow’s concerns about the Quad are misplaced. Or at least, the SCO may not be the best forum to raise Quad concerns,” he adds.

In his view, Moscow has its priorities and compulsions. It is under immense pressure due to shifting geopolitics in Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific. “New Delhi should not feel obliged to react to every such provocation. We have dealt with such statements in the past and should remain firm in our commitment to Quad and SCO. That’s exactly what defines India’s policy of multi-alignment,” he says.

In his address the Russian minister also stated that one of the major achievements in the Asia-Pacific region is bloc-free and equal interaction. And, this according to him must be preserved. In his view the most pressing military-political problems is that Washington and its enablers are pushing their strategic agenda of provoking other countries into military confrontation with undesirable states, especially China and Russia.

The Russian minister had said that the independent policies of the SCO related to the regional and global security challenges could set an example to the world. According to him, the countermeasures of the West for developing multilateralism could be seen in the Asia-Pacific Region and that the US had paved the way for the disintegration of the existing regional system with the major role of the ASEAN member states. NATO is willing to establish its dominance in the Asia-Pacific Region, said the Russian minister, which is why military and political alliances like the AUKUS, QUAD are integrating into NATO. According to him, the concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific region is now being promoted. This concept, according to him, implies the construction of the intergovernmental relations bloc system in which the Americans arrogate to themselves the power to determine the norms and rules of behaviour,” he said. 

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