All Articles (99)

FM Lavrov led the Russian delegation to the high-level conference on Afghanistan in Tashkent (March 26-27), which included participation of Afghan President Ghani and Ministerial or senior official representations from major European countries, all Central Asian countries, China, India, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States, EU and UN. USA was represented by Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon.

The declaration voiced “strong…

The poisoning of a former Russian double-agent (a Russian military intelligence operative recruited by MI6) and his daughter in the southern England town of Salisbury on March 4, generated shock waves in Russia-West relations, whose turbulence has not abated.

Sergei Skripal, who was arrested in Russia in 2006, was part of a Russia-UK spy swap – 4 in Russian custody sent to UK, in return for 10 in British custody – in 2010 and has been living in England since. Within days of the…

At a joint press conference with visiting Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif (February 20), FM Lavrov described Russia’s relations with Pakistan as “constructive and mutually productive”. He reaffirmed Russia’s continued assistance to Pakistan in its counterterrorist activity, referring in this context to the four Mi-35M combat-transport helicopters supplied in 2016-17. Significantly, he announced decisions to continue joint military exercises in “counterterrorist operations in mountain…

Russia continues to allege that the US is also facilitating the migration of ISIS militants to northern Afghanistan from Syria and Iraq. Russian Presidential envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov said the strength of the Islamic State in Afghanistan “exceeds 10000 fighters and is continuing to grow.” The deputy secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russia-led Central Asian security body, put the figure at 7,000. Iran joined Russia in these accusations.…

The US Department of Defence published the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which entails a major upgradation of the US nuclear arsenal (at a cost of $1.2 trillion over 30 years, according to a reported estimate of the Congressional Budget Office). The NPR emphasizes the need to respond suitably to growing strategic threats – Russia receiving prime focus among them. It notes that Russia is modernizing its strategic weapons and “adopting military strategies and capabilities that…

Over the past few months, the Russian political plan for Syria, hatched in coalition with Iran and Turkey and painstakingly stitching together disparate regional interests, had progressed – albeit haltingly – on the strength of Syrian-Russian military successes and America’s low profile in the region. The articulation of a more robust Syria strategy by Secretary Tillerson in January (see Review no. 1/18) caused the plan to unravel, as evident from the outcome of the Syrian National Dialogue…

Even as the Russia-US standoff continued, European political and economic interactions with Russia continued their recent cautious upward trend. The Chancellor of Austria, PM of Belgium and Foreign Ministers of France and Portugal have recently visited Russia. European business delegations were received by President Putin and/or FM Lavrov. Russia-EU consultations at the official level (Deputy Foreign Minister) resumed in February after a gap of over four years. Russia-EU trade continues to…

In an unusual gesture, Prime Minister Modi telephoned President Putin to convey New Year greetings; the Kremlin release says they confirmed their commitment to the strategic partnership.

Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar stated in a media interaction that India, Russia and Bangladesh have agreed to co-operate in the establishment of a Russian-built nuclear power plant in Bangladesh. The idea is that India’s extensive experience with Russian-built power plants could be…

 
Russia’s ambitious efforts for intra-Syrian dialogue, through a “Congress of Syrian National Dialogue” in Sochi on January 29-30, inevitably came up against multiple regional and external interests. Russia made strenuous efforts to reconcile them. Turkish and Iranian sensitivities about Kurdish political groups were sought to be addressed by selecting a Kurdish representation in Sochi without the top political and military leadership of these groups. Almost every major…

The Speaker of Russia’s Parliament led a delegation to a six-nation “regional” inter-parliamentary conference in Islamabad in end-December 2017.Iran, Turkey, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan were the other participants at the conference, whose stated aim is to promote regional co-operation in countering terrorism, maintaining stability and increasing connectivity. Russia made its usual points about its concerns over the growing terrorist threat from the migration of militants from Syria and…

In no sphere of foreign policy has there been as stark a mismatch between Candidate Trump’s pronouncements and his Administration’s actions, as in the case of Ukraine. From saying that Ukraine should not be allowed to disrupt US-Russia co-operation to asserting that the resolution of the Ukraine conflict holds the key to a US-Russia normalization, represents a 180-degree turnaround. By appointing its own Envoy for Ukraine, the US effectively snatched the monitoring of the Minsk agreements…

As the US Congressional pre-occupation with the Russian “meddling” in US Presidential elections and the Trump campaign’s “collusion” with Russia continued to dominate political discourse in Washington, dialogue between the two countries was almost totally confined to a couple of telephone conversations between the two Foreign Ministers, which focused mainly on North Korea, Ukraine and Syria.

Secretary of State Tillerson authored an op-ed on US foreign policy in the New York Times in…

The Russia-India-China ministerial meeting in Delhi on December 11 produced a detailed communique on largely expected lines. Paragraphs on the global economic and financial architecture, climate change and sustainable development reflected convergence of views. The paragraphs on terrorism contain the usual vanilla formulations, without specific finger-pointing. The need for an open and inclusive security and economic architecture in the Asia Pacific was expressed; trilateral consultations…
Though Russia and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura declared Syria to be virtually liberated from ISIS, and President Putin announced a partial withdrawal of Russian forces from the country, an intense jockeying for positional advantage continued between various groups, supported by their regional patrons.
 
The Geneva round of intra-Syrian dialogue, continuing from November, eventually wound up on December 15 with no progress. Ambassador de Mistura blamed…
In his interactions at meetings of NATO Foreign Ministers, Secretary of State Tillerson continued with harsh criticism of Russia (see Review, November 2017), identifying its actions in Ukraine as the single greatest threat to European security.  He said deployment of a peacekeeping force was imperative for ensuring an end to violence, adding that there were still “some gaps” in Russian and Western views on the scope of activities of the peacekeeping force. President Putin’s remarks at…
At his traditional year-end news conference on December 14, President Putin was asked by an American journalist to assess President Trump’s first year in office. Prefacing his answer with the remark that this was for the American electorate to judge, President Putin responded that he saw some “major achievements”, like buoyancy in the markets, reflecting investors’ trust in the US economy. President Trump called President Putin later the same day. The White House said he thanked President…

Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited Russia (November 26-29) to discuss bilateral security cooperation with his counterpart. They signed an agreement providing for a “comprehensive approach” to cooperation in tackling IT crimes, counterfeiting currency, drug & human trafficking, and economic crimes. The Minister also met the Russian Minister of Emergency Situations; they agreed that Russia would assist India in the establishment of an Indian National Crisis Management Centre. This…

The Russia-backed Syrian Army continued to register military successes against the ISIS and other militant groups. UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told the UN Security Council (November 27) that, with defeat in its last stronghold of Abu Kamal, ISIS’ territorial occupation of Syria has been virtually ended, the time has come for launching “a real political process”.

Despite the seeming agreement of the US and Russian Presidents on the way forward in Syria, the…

Russian hopes of a formal Trump-Putin meeting on the margins of the APEC (Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit in Danang (Vietnam) were dashed by the Americans, who cited “scheduling issues” (the furore back home over former Trump aides’ involvement in the “Russian meddling” investigation may have been a more compelling reason). Nevertheless, they met long enough to endorse a joint statement on Syria (November 11), hailing the success of the US-Russia military de-confliction efforts,…

The visit to Russia by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – the first ever by a Saudi King – illustrates how much the balance of power in West Asia has altered in the last three years or so. From a position of visceral hatred for President Assad, Saudi Arabia appears to have now dropped his departure as a precondition for a Syrian settlement. Like other major actors in the region (and even, to some extent, the Americans), it recognizes that Russia holds many of the keys to a settlement. Its…

About the Author

Born in 1955, Ambassador Raghavan holds a B.Sc. (Honours) degree in Physics and a B.E. in Electronics & Communications Engineering. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1979. From 1979 to 2000, he had diplomatic assignments in USSR, Poland, United Kingdom, Vietnam and South Africa, interspersed with assignments in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi. From 2000 to 2004, he was Joint Secretary in the Indian Prime Minister's Office dealing with Foreign Affairs, Nuclear Energy, Space, Defence and National Security. Thereafter, he was Ambassador of India to Czech Republic (2004 - 2007) and to Ireland (2007 - 2011).

He was Chief Coordinator of the BRICS Summit in New Delhi (March 2012) and Special Envoy of the Government of India to Sudan and South Sudan (2012-13). Ambassador Raghavan conceptualized and piloted the creation of the Development Partnership Administration (DPA) in MEA, which implements and monitors India’s economic partnership programs in developing countries, with an annual budget of $1-1.5 billion. He headed DPA in 2012-13. From March 2013 to January 2014, he oversaw the functioning of the Administration, Security, Information Technology and other related Divisions of MEA. Since October 2013, he was also Secretary [Economic Relations] in MEA, steering India’s bilateral and multilateral external economic engagement. Ambassador Raghavan retired from the Indian Foreign Service in January 2016, after serving from 2014 as Ambassador of India to Russia. Since September 2016, he is Convenor of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India.