Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 102

Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh completed a two-day visit to Moscow yesterday during which the Balkans crisis appeared to dominate discussions. Russian reports of the visit observed at length what they said were the common views of the crisis held by Moscow and New Delhi. They also quoted several top Russian officials who both welcomed India’s support on Kosovo and appeared to push the notion of coordinated action by Russia, India and China on the issue.

During talks on May 24, for example, the special Russian envoy for the Balkans, Viktor Chernomyrdin, hailed India’s stand on Kosovo and called for close cooperation in that area by India, Russia and China. Chernomyrdin told reporters that the coordination of New Delhi, Moscow and Beijing efforts is “a must,” and that Russia is ready for it. Federal Security Service Director Vladimir Putin, who also met with Singh on May 24, conveyed much the same message. He said that he and Singh had spoken of the formation of a reliable system of security and stability in Asia and for Russian, Indian and Chinese cooperation in reaching this goal (Russian agencies, May 24).

Singh did apparently echo Moscow’s criticism of NATO actions in the Balkans, characterizing them–according to a Russian source–as “outrageous and unjustifiable.” But, according to the same sources, he also rebuffed the notion that Russia, India and China might join to form some sort of “axis” on the issue of Kosovo. Singh said that such a notion had never been considered (it was unclear whether he meant in New Delhi or during his talks in Moscow), because the formation of a such an axis would mark a return “to the Cold War period.” (Russian agencies, May 24). Moscow has long sought to build an anti-NATO front of some sort composed of Russia, China and India, but has–not surprisingly–found little interest in the capitals of the two traditional rivals.

Aside from Kosovo, Russia and India apparently resolved anew to sign a Russian-Indian “partnership declaration” during the next summit meeting between the two countries. According to Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who met with Singh yesterday, the declaration will contain principles which will serve as the “basis of a partnership between the two countries in the twenty-first century.” Ivanov also reaffirmed that friendly relations with New Delhi are a “constant priority” in Russian foreign policy. Both he and other Russian officials reportedly urged India to join the international ban on nuclear testing (Russian agencies, May 25).

With regard to the Indian-Russian “strategic partnership,” Ivanov did not say when the next Russian-Indian summit would occur. Russian President Boris Yeltsin twice postponed visits to India last year, causing some consternation in New Delhi and delaying formalization of the partnership agreement. In December Russia’s ambassador to India said that two summit meetings could occur this year–one in the summer during a visit by India’s prime minister to Moscow–and another in the fall, when Yeltsin would travel to New Delhi (Itar-Tass, December 30, 1998). Little has been said of those dates since then, however, and it is unclear whether they are still under consideration.