India, Russia Believe Military Alliance Like ‘Asian NATO’ Will Be Counterproductive: Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov concluded his two-day visit to India on Tuesday after talks with his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar in New Delhi. The discussions were primarily focused on the Afghan peace process, Sputnik reports.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has categorically dismissed speculative media reports which suggest a possible military alliance between Moscow and Beijing in the near future. Lavrov said that India and Russia believe these kinds of military alliances are counterproductive.

“Our relations [with Beijing] are highest in the history but these relations do not pursue the goal of establishing a military alliance,” Lavrov said during a press briefing in New Delhi after talks with his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar.

At the same time, Lavrov stated that he also heard about pro-military alliances are being promoted in the Middle East and Asia.

“By the way, we have heard speculation about pro-military alliance regarding not only Russia and China relations but we also heard about such alliance allegedly being promoted Middle East-NATO, we also heard about Asian NATO. Our Indian friends have the same position as us. We believe that this [military alliance] is counterproductive and we are interested in inclusive cooperation that is for something and not against something,” he said.

The term “Asian NATO” has been coined by some analysts and media to describe the Quad Security Dialogue in which India is an important member country along with the U.S., Japan, and Australia. The Quad is understood in its current form to be an anti-China alliance, however, it has no formal declaration of mutual collective defense like NATO.

‘Taliban is Part of Afghan Society’

The meeting between Jaishankar and Lavrov comes against a backdrop of fast paced diplomatic manoeuvring on the Afghan peace process. The Biden administration is pushing Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban to reach a peace deal so it can withdraw the remaining 2,500 American troops from the war-torn country.

“The Taliban movement is part of Afghan society and decisions on the settlement in Afghanistan should foresee the participation of all political, ethnic and religious groups in Afghanistan, otherwise it won’t be durable,” Lavrov said while sitting next to Jaishankar.

“And this settlement should reflect a balance of interests of all political, ethnic, and religious groups, including their representation in governing structures,” he added.

Government sources in New Delhi told Sputnik that the Indian side conveyed its reservations about the Taliban during the talks with Lavrov.

Lavrov is scheduled to meet Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad on Tuesday afternoon. This is his first visit to Pakistan in nine years and it’s expected that the two countries will discuss the Afghanistan peace process at length. Lavrov underscored that he respects India’s right to diversify military and defense relations with other countries.

Military Co-operation Will Continue

Lavrov and Jaishankar sidestepped questions on the delivery of S-400s and possible American sanctions, nevertheless, the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to boost military cooperation.

“We reiterated our commitment to military-technical cooperation. We have an intergovernmental commission on military-technical cooperation. It has its plans, and this includes discussion of additional manufacturing of Russian military equipment on Indian Territory,” Lavrov underlined in a response to a question about whether there will be any impact on military co-operation due America’s sanction threat.

Jaishankar said the S-400s would be discussed at a meeting of defense ministers later in the year. Last month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III urged Indian leaders to avoid buying Russian defense equipment, including S-400s, if the country wants to avoid the risk of sanctions under Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).