Calls for louder global 'voice' as China, India, Russia meet

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday hailed his country's relations with India and Russia during meetings that heard calls for developing economies to have more say on the global stage, rivalling US influence. The twin visits by New Delhi's foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Sergei Lavrov from Moscow come on the heels of a high-profile trip to India by US President Barack Obama last week, and with Russian leader Vladimir Putin globally isolated over the conflict in Ukraine. Under Xi, China has been pursuing a bigger say in the global economy, winning support in November from Asia-Pacific economies for a roadmap for a vast new free trade area that could rival US plans for the region. China is also aiming to set up an Asian infrastructure lender seen as a counterweight to Western-backed international development banks, and has backed plans to reform the International Monetary Fund that would give emerging economies a greater say in the institution. Following the foreign minister's meetings in Beijing, Swaraj said: "We have shared interests in governance reform of the international financial system." Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi added: "We call for the improvement of global economic governance and to increase the voice and representation of developing countries." Xi had earlier told Swaraj that China-India ties "have entered a new stage of growth" since he visited in September. "The positive side of China-India relations has been growing, the momentum of our cooperation has been strengthening," he added. Ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours are still characterised by mutual suspicion, in large part as a legacy of a brief but bloody war in 1962 and a continuing border dispute. But Swaraj was similarly effusive, telling Xi that "relations between our two countries have risen to a whole new level". - Mixed messages - The Indian and Russian ministers' trips to Beijing -- for a three-way meeting with their Chinese counterpart -- comes on the heels of Obama's high-profile trip to India that was aimed at bolstering ties between Washington and New Delhi and their shared interest in curbing Beijing's growing regional influence. Although neither mentioned China by name during the three-day visit, Obama welcomed what he called a "greater role for India in the Asia-Pacific". Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is widely seen as taking a more assertive line towards Beijing than the previous government, but is still expected to take care to not alienate China, whose investment he needs as he tries to boost India's economy. Swaraj on Sunday announced that Modi will visit China in May. To Lavrov, meanwhile, Xi expressed his satisfaction with China-Russia ties. Beijing and Moscow, allies and then adversaries during the Cold War, have found common ground internationally and often take similar stands at the UN Security Council where they have permanent veto powers. They have also forged increasingly closer economic ties as China is hungry for the vast hydrocarbon resources of Russia, which is seeking stable markets as it has felt the bite of Western sanctions over its annexation of Crimea and fighting in eastern Ukraine. "Over the past year, we have together been advancing the development of the overall strategic relationship between China and Russia," Xi said. "Our joint efforts have yielded rich results... our cooperation grows ever deeper," he added. Lavrov pointed out that Xi and Putin met five times last year. "The consensus reached at the highest level between the two leaders has played an extremely important role in pushing the development of relations in the right direction," he said. China has expressed support for Russia amid its economic crisis and is careful to avoid criticising the country over the conflict in Ukraine, consistently calling on all sides to reach a political settlement.