India-China exploring bilateral talks when Chinese Defence Minister visits for SCO meeting in April

This will be the first high level military visitsince the clashes along the LAC in eastern Ladakh

SCO Meet 2023 and the 'Iron Brothers'
e SCO defence ministers’ meeting scheduled from 27 to 29 April. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/MEA)

Amidst the ongoing standoff between the Indian and Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers to meet the  Chinese Defence Minister General Li Shangfu (he is also State Councillor) is expected to be here. India under its presidency of SCO has already dispatched the invites for the meeting ;21`which is scheduled for April 27-29 to take place in New Delhi.

This will be the first high level military visit since the clashes along the LAC in eastern Ladakh. While the new defence minister of China is expected to present physically for the Defence Ministers SCO meeting, Financial Express Online has reported earlier this week that Chinese Minister of Public Security and State Councillor Wang Xiaohong had attended the SCO NSAs’ meeting virtually.

Will there be a bilateral meeting on the sidelines?

Both India and China are exploring the possibility of holding a bilateral meeting during the visit of the Chinese defence minister who happens to be from the aerospace sector.  According to reports he has served in the Chinese PLA’s equipment development department. And if the bilateral meeting takes place on the sidelines of the SCO Defence Ministers meeting then it will be first meeting between Defence minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart General Li Shangfu

The last meeting between defence ministers of India and China had taken place at the SCO meeting in Moscow 2020 – when minister Singh had met with General Wei Fenghe.

Why has the US imposed sanctions on him?

He has been appointed by President Xi Jinping and reports indicate that the US sanctioned him over China procuring the S-400 air defence missile from Russia. His appointment is an indication of China’s renewed focus on modernization of its armed forces.

Standoff continues at LAC

It’s been more than three years that forces of both sides are locked in a standoff along the LAC in eastern Ladakh. Through 17 rounds of talks at the Corps Commanders’ level the two sides have disengaged from Galwan Valley, Gogra, Pangong Tso, and Hot Springs. Both sides continue to discuss disengagement at two crucial friction points: Demchok and Depsang. These two are yet to be resolved. Financial Express Online has reported earlier though India maintains that these two friction points remain, China maintains that these two friction points predate the standoff since 2020.

Earlier this year Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Shilpak Ambule was in Beijing for the first in-person meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) since July 2019. According to reports the two sides had talked about proposals for disengaging in the two remaining friction points and to restore normalcy in relations.

The two countries have already agreed to hold the next round of Corps Commander’s talks.

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First published on: 31-03-2023 at 20:30 IST
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