Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held talks his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) gathering of Defence Ministers in Moscow on Friday. This was the first high-level face-to-face meeting between the two sides after the border row escalated in eastern Ladakh in early May.
The meeting lasted for 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and Indian Ambassador to Russia D B Venkatesh Varma were part of the Indian delegation at the talks that began at around 9:30 PM at a prominent hotel in the Russian capital, news agency PTI reported. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had previously held telephonic talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi after the Galwan faceoff, which left 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese soldiers dead.
The meeting between Raksha Mantri Shri @rajnathsingh and Chinese Defence Minister, General Wei Fenghe in Moscow is over. The meeting lasted for 2 hours and 20 minutes.
— रक्षा मंत्री कार्यालय/ RMO India (@DefenceMinIndia) September 4, 2020
On Thursday, The Indian Express had reported that Fenghe sought a meeting with Singh, days after Indian troops occupied heights in the Chushul sector for area domination.
Earlier in the day, while addressing a ministerial meeting of the SCO in Moscow, Singh underlined that a climate of trust, non-aggression, sensitivity towards each other and peaceful resolution of differences are among key aspects to ensure regional peace and stability. Notably, Singh made the comments in the presence of his Chinese counterpart Fenghe, news agency PTI reported.
“Peaceful stable and secure region of SCO member states – which is home to over 40% of global population, demands a climate of trust and cooperation, non-aggression, respect for international rules and norms, sensitivity to each other’s interest and peaceful resolution of differences,” Singh said while addressing the combined meeting of defence ministers of SCO, Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member states.
The defence minister also talked about the threat of terrorism and extremism and pitched for having institutional capacity to deal with the challenges.
“I reaffirm today that India is committed to the evolution of a global security architecture which will be open, transparent, inclusive, rules-based and anchored in international laws,” he said.
Tensions between the two countries flared up after Indian troops, thwarting Chinese moves in the Chushul sector, occupied dominating heights on the south bank of Pangong Tso and Rechin La near Rezang La on the intervening night of August 29 and August 30.
Troops also moved to strengthen positions at Finger 3 on the Pangong north bank, occupying heights west of Finger 4 where the Chinese continue to occupy the ridgeline after coming in 8 km from Finger 8 which India says marks the LAC.
These Indian moves, sources said, will help in military and diplomatic talks with the Chinese to resolve the border crisis which began early May. The talks have not made much headway since mid-July because of Chinese reluctance to complete the disengagement process at Pangong Tso north bank and Gogra Post. India has been seeking status quo ante — of troops on both sides returning to their April locations.
With the Head of Delegations attending the SCO Defence Ministers’ meeting in Moscow.
Looking forward to productive deliberations. pic.twitter.com/CX7VJzjlmD
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) September 4, 2020
The Indian Express reported Friday 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 LAC.
Meanwhile, Army Chief General MM Naravane said the situation along the LAC in eastern Ladakh is “tense” and Indian troops are prepared for all possible contingencies.
SCO is an eight-nation regional grouping which primarily focuses on issues relating to security and defence. This was Singh’s second visit to Moscow since the border stand-off with China began in early May.