A senior Russian official warned of a “new wave” of terrorism in the region following NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and asked for India’s help in combating it.
"Thousands of terrorists and fundamentalists will seek refuge in Afghanistan as well as the region around the country. It may change the situation drastically around the region and for countries like Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Central Asia. This is a big problem for Russia and India," Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, said during a trip to New Delhi on Sunday, speaking of the period after NATO forces pull out Afghanistan in 2014.
"So we have to control the situation with some political and security monitoring and see what we can do together to stop this invasion of new terrorist wave against us and our citizens," Rogozin added.
It is unclear how Indian officials responded to these overtures.
There is precedent for this type of cooperation between the two countries– when the Taliban controlled Afghanistan prior to the U.S. invasion in 2001, Russia and India were among the main backers of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance forces. Rogozin’s comments suggest that Moscow is looking to build a similar coalition of regional powers to prevent Taliban forces from retaking Afghanistan. Both Russia and India are threatened by Islamist inspired groups at home, Moscow from the Chechnya secession groups in its northern Caucasus and New Delhi from separationist groups in the Kashmir as well as Pakistan-based terrorist groups that have orchestrated a number of high profile terrorist attacks inside India in recent years, including the 2008 Mumbai attack.
There had been earlier indications that Russia would seek to align itself closer to Pakistan in order to fend off any potential threat it would face from the Taliban returning to power in Afghanistan. Russian officials have been quietly traveling to Pakistan over the course of 2012 to prepare for Vladimir Putin to travel to Islamabad this month. However, Putin abruptly cancelled what would have been the first modern Russian head-of-state visit to Pakistan just days before the trip was supposed to take place.
Although Russian officials said the trip had never been officially announced and the Russian Prime Minister was simple overbooked, many observers speculated that Putin had decided to forgo the trip to allay India’s concerns over it. Putin did send his Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov to Islamabad in his place and Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of staff of Pakistan’s Army, went ahead with a pre-planned visit to Russia during the first week of October.
While in New Delhi on Sunday Rogozin seemed to rule out the possibility of Russia seeking closer ties with Pakistan as a hedge against the Taliban. "You must understand that we do not deal with your enemies. We don't deliver any arms to them…. If you see otherwise, you may spit on my face," Rogozin told local reporters.
The deputy prime minister also pledged to undertake more joint defense ventures with India in the future like the one that produced the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles. Rogozin also sought to assuage India’s concerns over Russia’s continued delay in delivering a refitted aircraft carrier to India. The carrier was initially scheduled to be transferred to India in 2008 but Russia later said it wouldn’t be ready until December of this year. Last week Moscow told India that the carrier now won’t be ready for delivery until the end of 2013 after the ship encountered difficulties during sea trials.
Zachary Keck is Assistant Editor of The Diplomat. You can follow him on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.