India balances ties with US; Russia: As Ivanka visits Hyderabad, top Indian ministers visit Russia

India juggles between major powers — USA and Russia — in keeping with its traditional foreign policy approach of engaging simultaneously with both Washington and Moscow, crucial to Delhi’s global ambitions.

While Hyderabad is all set to host US presidential envoy Ivanka Trump for the GES that will be jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the visitor on November 28, home minister Rajnath Singh and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj will be in Russia for back-to-back visits from Sunday, all during the same week.

During Singh’s 3-day trip from November 26, India and Russia will sign a comprehensive counter-terror pact, which will be followed by Swaraj’s 4-day visit to Sochi from November 29 for SCO Summit. Swaraj will hold dialogue with Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the summit. These visits will be followed by Russia-India-China trilateral foreign ministerial meeting here on December 11.

Singh will hold bilateral meetings with the Russian leadership and discuss how to strengthen cooperation in tackling organised crime, smuggling of narcotics, fake currency notes and cybercrime, officials said. A Cabinet meeting, chaired by the PM on Wednesday, approved the signing of the agreement on cooperation between India and Russia to tackle terrorism and organised crime. The proposed pact, which will replace the agreement of October 1993, is a step towards consolidating the benefits accrued in the field of security and seeks to jointly fight new and evolving threats.

Meanwhile, the SCO summit will be held in Sochi on November 30and December 1, and it is likely to discuss the regional security scenario, including the Afghan situation. In June, India along with Pakistan became members of the SCO, which has strong focus on regional security. India’s membership was strongly pushed by Russia while Pakistan’s entry into the grouping was backed by China.

India had been an observer at the SCO since 2005 and has participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region.

Swaraj will reach Sochi on November 29 and return on December 2. “We attach special significance to the SCO in promoting political, economic and people-to-people contacts,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

The spokesperson said Swaraj will have bilateral meetings with several leaders on the sidelines of the summit. Asked whether she will have bilateral meetings with the Pakistan foreign minister or call on Chinese premier Li Keqiang, Kumar said her schedule is yet to be finalised.

Asked whether India will raise the issue of release of Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed from house arrest and the larger challenge of terrorism, the MEA spokesperson said India has been working with like-minded countries to deal with the situation.

As an SCO member, India is expected to have a bigger say in pressing for concerted action in dealing with terrorism as well as on issues relating to security and defence in the region.

Economic Times