Putin Pushes 'Strategic Triangle' with China, India ; in Visits to Beijing and New Delhi This Week, President Putin Took Steps to Define Asia's Views on Terrorism

By Robert Marquand writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 6, 2002 | Go to article overview

Putin Pushes 'Strategic Triangle' with China, India ; in Visits to Beijing and New Delhi This Week, President Putin Took Steps to Define Asia's Views on Terrorism


Robert Marquand writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Vladimir Putin's intriguing two-day visits to China and India this week show the speed with which Russia is seeking to wield its influence among the biggest players in Asia, post-Sept. 11.

In Beijing, where students treated him like a rock-star, and in New Delhi yesterday, the Russian president put on what some analysts say is a clinic in selling the idea of a strategic partnership or "strategic triangle" in Asia between Russia, China, and India - with Moscow taking the lead.

Moreover, Mr. Putin indirectly backed the idea of a triangular alliance while at the same time stating clearly that good relations with Washington, and the war on terrorism, is the centerpiece of Russian ambitions - a sentiment shared by India, and of late, by China as well.

Yet Putin also made a number of moves to position Russia as a leading interpreter of what the war on terrorism means, and to provide a counterpoint to the US. While the White House has defined terrorism as a global phenomenon, a cross-border danger, Putin argued that terrorism's main danger is secessionist movements that challenge state sovereignty.

With Russia concerned about Chechnya, China concerned about Muslim separatists in Xinjiang province (and eager to gain international acceptance of Taiwan as a separatist entity), and India concerned about militants in Kashmir - that message played well.

"Asia has not been on the whole happy with the George Bush approach to antiterrorism, though everyone has felt obliged to go along," says a Beijing-based diplomat. "Putin looks to become a kind of moderator of antiterrorism. He is saying, 'We are with the US big time, but oh, by the way, we don't agree with them on everything.' "

China, for example, is not anxious for a breakup of North Korea that would send millions of refugees across its borders. India is determined to have the core problem of Kashmir defined as Pakistani- based terrorism. Putin obliged on both counts.

In Beijing he signed a joint declaration asking North Korea to end its various illegal nuclear weapons programs, but urged Washington not to pressure North Korea by treating previous treaties as nullified.

In New Delhi, Putin's antiterror message was a welcome, clear break from the US position, which Delhi has criticized as too weak. Putin strongly backed India's stance that no talks with Pakistan should take place until Islamabad stops supporting militant groups that operate Kashmir. The US has implied it would like talks to take place without such preconditions.

Moscow also showed it can be a full-service strategic partner by dangling big money deals in both capitals - an oil pipeline for energy-worried China, and a $2 billion aircraft carrier package for India. …

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