With Indian troops occupying heights in the Chushul sector for area domination and New Delhi telling Beijing that negotiations can now be the only way forward to resolve the border crisis in Ladakh, Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe has sought a meeting Friday with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation gathering of Defence Ministers in Moscow.
Sources told The Indian Express Thursday night that South Block has given the go-ahead for Singh’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart, hoping it leads to “early and complete disengagement” as well as de-escalation along the Line of Actual Control.
The Indian and Chinese embassies in Moscow, sources said, are in touch to schedule the meeting Friday.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, responding to questions Thursday on his book ‘The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World’, too underlined: “I am totally convinced that the solution to the situation (on the LAC) has to be found in the domain of diplomacy. And I say that with responsibility.”
Jaishankar, who also participated in a meeting of the G-20 Foreign Ministers Thursday, will be meeting his BRICS counterparts via videoconference Friday. He will head to Moscow for a meeting of the SCO Foreign Ministers on September 9. At both meetings, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will also be present.
“We have a long history, which is very good in many parts, very indifferent in some parts and very difficult in some ways. The problem is the more difficult parts are more recent… This is not the easiest of times in the relationship,” the External Affairs Minister said.
“I am not underplaying the seriousness of the current situation or the actual challenges of the boundary question. It is vital for both countries to reach and accomplish, not just for them. I think that one has a lot riding. I am also conscious that right now we have a situation in the border areas of the western sector. We have agreements and understandings with China… the agreements and understandings must be scrupulously observed by both parties, neither party should attempt to change the status quo unilaterally. And the reality is, what happens on the border, will impact the relationship, you cannot separate it,” he said.
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“I am not underestimating the challenges, I am being very realistic, I understand. I am in touch with the ground situation on a regular basis… But I am convinced that the way out is through diplomacy,” he said.
“And that will happen if both sides understand that it is in their own interest that they don’t see what they have seen this summer,” he said.
In Moscow, Rajnath Singh met Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and conveyed appreciation for the “steadfast support” provided by Russia “consistent with the defence and security needs of India”.
He noted the “timely manner in which the Russians had responded to requests for procurement of particular weapon systems,” Singh’s office tweeted.
Both sides said they will continue to maintain contacts to ensure timely delivery, and welcomed the advance stage of discussions for the establishment in India of an India-Russian joint venture for the production of AK203 assault rifles.
Singh’s office said the meeting in Moscow covered a broad range of areas of cooperation between the two countries. The meeting coincides with the Indra naval exercises to be conducted by the navies of Indian and Russia off the Strait of Malacca over the next two days.
Singh said these exercises demonstrated the common interests of both countries in maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region.
He described their meeting as “excellent”, and sources said there was “great personal chemistry” between the two leaders during the bilateral meeting which went on for more than an hour.
Sources also said Russia reiterated its policy of no-arms-supply to Pakistan, following India’s request.
Russia is hosting multiple multilateral events which are being attended by ministers, and provide opportunity and space to top interlocutors from India and China to have conversations on the sidelines.
In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, commenting on the Ladakh situation, said: “It is clear that the situation we witnessed over the past four months is a direct result of the actions taken by the Chinese side that sought to effect unilateral change of status quo.”
Now the way ahead is negotiations, both through the diplomatic and military channels. The Indian side is firmly committed to resolving all outstanding issues through peaceful dialogue,” he said.
Chinese embassy spokesperson Ji Rong said: “China and India have the ability to resolve their border disputes bilaterally. We don’t accept countries outside the region pointing fingers, let alone meddling or making instigation, which will only endanger the regional peace and stability.”
The MEA, meanwhile, confirmed that New Delhi will be hosting a meeting of the Quad Foreign Ministers next month. US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun had said it would be an “in-person” meeting. The Quad grouping comprises US, India, Japan and Australia. India and the US are also working on scheduling the 2+2 meeting between their Foreign and Defence Ministers.
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