The absence of Russia was quite glaring, given that Moscow has continued to strongly back India after New Delhi revoked Art 370 last year.
New Delhi: Russia is understood to have been reluctant to join the 15-member foreign envoys’ delegation that had visited J&K on Thursday and Friday at the invitation of the Indian government, but there are indications that Moscow may consider a “stand-alone” invitation for its envoy to visit the Kashmir Valley at a future date. The absence of Russia was quite glaring, given that Moscow has continued to strongly back India after New Delhi revoked Article 370 in August last year.
According to sources, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) had held informal preliminary consultations with Russia which was reluctant to join the delegation. Therefore, no formal invitation was eventually sent by New Delhi. Sources indicated that since Russia does not consider the Kashmir issue to be part of the Indo-Russia bilateral ties, Moscow apparently felt there was therefore no need for the Russian ambassador to be part of the delegation.
But observers feel this may be only part of the story. Significantly, the United States was represented in the delegation by its ambassador Kenneth Juster. It’s no secret that the United States does not currently enjoy a cordial relation with Russia and the US has been threatening to impose sanctions on countries buying Russian weaponry and armaments. Observers also point out that Russia may be somewhat uneasy over the recent “two plus two” dialogue between India and the US at the foreign and defence ministerial level. Moscow does not want the Indo-US proximity to have any impact on the Indo-Russian bilateral relationship, especially in the defence sector.
When asked specifically why Russia was not part of the foreign envoys’ delegation, the MEA had indicated recently that there may be more such visits in the future to J&K in which countries not represented in this delegation may be represented.
Russia has been India’s time-tested friend for more than seven decades and is also a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC).
Envoys of 15 countries——the United States, South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Fiji, Maldives, Norway, Philippines, Morocco, Argentina, Peru, Niger, Nigeria, Guyana and Togo—-had comprised the group that had been taken by the Indian Government to J&K on the two-day visit on January 9 and 10. The foreign envoys had met security officials, members of civil society, political leaders and the local media there. The MEA had said the envoys had been taken there to “see the efforts being made by the Government to bring the situation to normal”.